Movie Review: 'Endless Love' (2014)

Director Shana Feste’s remake of Franco Zeffirelli’s 1981 film adaptation of “Endless Love” shares little in common with its predecessor, which is both a good and bad thing. On the positive side, Feste works hard to make sense of the first film's outlandish characterizations by incorporating every plausible plot twist into the scenario to make the characters and their actions sympathetic. Whereas Zeffirelli never even bothered to acknowledge the ludicrous nature of the characters or their behavior.

Among the improvements is the aging of Jade from the awkward age of 15 to a more reasonable 17. Her mother’s concern for David is cleared up as nothing more than maternal, thus distancing itself from the original’s creepy undertones and Jade’s disruptive older brother has been replaced by a supportive one.

After two adaptations what both miss entirely is the point of Scott Spencer's novel. It was an indictment against the folly of youth's dangerous and extreme romanticism. It was not an endorsement of an "endless love".

In the book, the romantic David cannot let go of what for Jade is a passing teen infatuation. His obsession is just that, an obsession. It seems that acknowledging the hazards of romanticism is just too much of a taboo notion to tackle, which is strange and disturbing in its own right.

In the 2014 version, Jade (Gabriella Wilde) is a wholesome girl struggling to step outside of the long shadow cast by a family tragedy. David (Alex Pettyfer) is a reckless teen with a checkered past and present. After a glance between the pair and the exchange of a few of words, the fires of lust are ignited and the two’s passion quickly sparks aflame. 

In the hasty effort to fortify their relationship, the movie whisks viewers past any sort of slow burn, harkening back to the original’s overwrought emotion and thus leading to a poorly developed relationship. At least in the original, Jade and David had been dating each other for a period of time before the movie began. Here they rush right into a relationship that is hard to take seriously, despite the whimpering pleas of the romantically embroiled teens.

Rooting for them to surmount the odds of Jade’s dad who wants his daughter to achieve academic, and career success, sounds as bizarrely contrary to rational reasoning as one can get. David tries to build a bridge to his opponent to little avail due to their cross purposes and the movie makes no bones about whose corner they’re in. David may not be a bad kid; he just gives viewers limited reasons to think he’s a good one.

In the realm of performance, Alex Pettyfer gives his most convincing to date and co-star Gabriella Wilde brings a genuine innocence to Jade. Nonetheless, they share little in the way of chemistry. The role of  “dastardly” dad is handled with sincerity by Bruce Greenwood, who keeps his role from falling into stifled camp.

Joely Richardson similarly offers a heartfelt turn as Jade’s conflicted mother. Dayo Okeniyi gets in some laughs as David’s best friend Mace and Robert Patrick brings his endearing surliness to the role of David’s dad.

As a director, Feste attempts to infuse the emotion and razzle-dazzle of first love without the fireworks of an on-screen chemistry capable of making it believable. Better than her 2010 effort “Country Strong,” “Endless Love” falls short of the emotive quality found in her debut film “The Greatest.”

The indie soundtrack with special attention to Lord Huron’s “Ends of the Earth” boosts the film through its problematic moments. For “Endless Love” its greatest obstacle is its lack of conviction as a love story, let alone one that’s endless. Rating: 6.4/10