By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When it opened in 1981, following director Franco Zeffirelli’s nationwide talent search to find teenage romantic leads, Endless Love, inspired by the 1978 Scott Spencer novel of the same name, starred 16-year-old Brooke Shields and 23-year-old Martin Hewitt.
Originally seen as daringly graphic, the R-rated romantic drama was initially saddled with an X rating and was widely panned and even ridiculed as a botched portrait of obsessive romance.
But it grossed more than $30 million over thirty years ago, which is saying something.
This remake, three decades later, also called Endless Love, is a look at first love, or puppy love, or whatever we want to call what seems like unshakable adolescent obsessiveness, but with the sexuality and drug use handled implicitly so that the film was able to gain a commercially more sensible PG-13 rating, given its youthful target audience.
It’s the story of a privileged, upper-class girl and the lower-class boy (and fellow recent high school graduate) she falls for — against the strong objections of her parents.
Gabriella Wilde (who was in The Three Musketeers and Carrie) plays the striking but shy Jade Butterfield, who lost her brother to cancer and stays pretty much to herself.
Alex Pettyfer (familiar from Magic Mike and Beastly) is David Elliot, who has been unable to say a word to Jade in the four years he has known her, but who has noticed her from afar.
She has gone through school quietly, without friends, hardly speaking to anyone, which becomes obvious when we see her alone at her graduation ceremony.
David is not college bound. He works as a mechanic, repairing cars in the garage owned by his father (played by Robert Patrick) and supplements his income by working as a valet with his best friend, Mace (Dayo Okeniyi).
And Bruce Greenwood and Joely Richardson are Hugh and Anne Butterfield, Jade’s disapproving parents, the former a controlling surgeon hoping to groom his daughter for a lucrative medical career. They’re determined to head this budding relationship off at the pass.
But from the moment David and Jade actually connect, she’s all in. As is he.
It’s love at first speak.
Director Shana Feste (Country Strong, The Greatest), who co-wrote the screenplay about class differences and social mobility with Joshua Safran, alternates between exuberant scenes of the young lovers exploring their blossoming relationship and scenes of the father trying to put an end to it despite his wife’s modest protestations in the name of her daughter’s apparent happiness after years of depression.
Dramatic and romantic clichés and conventions abound, but the film’s execution and energy are strong enough to keep us plugged in: the young audience being addressed should find themselves sufficiently engaged.
The British leads (both 23 in real life) have decent chemistry, but neither of them has the screen presence to register strongly enough to move us away from the shallow end of the pool as they superficially explore the universal conflict between a youthful desire for decisionmaking independence and parental protectiveness and territoriality.
However, Pettyfer has charm and appeal, palpably raising the game he brought to his earliest roles. Wilde holds her own even though she hasn’t yet mastered the technique of calibrating the changes in her character from scene to scene so that they don’t seem abrupt and arbitrary.
And Greenwood provides the film with a strong antagonist, one who suggests that he might have merited a film of his own.
So we’ll refuse to stop seeing 2½ stars out of 4 for the passable romantic drama, Endless Love, (Take Two). The love does prove to be endless but the film, fortunately for its young fans, is not.