In Endless Love, David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer), the ne’er-do-well suitor in love with the rich, beautiful Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde), is often described as emphatically “Not Good Enough” by Jade’s father, Hugh (Bruce Greenwood). It may be damning with faint praise to say that this toothless remake of the 1981 Brooke Shields/Martin Hewitt teen romance, adapted from Scott Spencer’s novel, is better than the original. But it is still Not Good Enough. Even aimed at teenage viewers, this PG-13 drama is painfully earnest when it is not downright cringe inducing.
The cringe-worthy moments are actually the dramatic not romantic scenes. However, watching David deflower Jade in front a fireplace on a summer night in Georgia while her parents sleep upstairs does push the limits of credibility in every direction.
After spending years quietly pining for the mysterious beauty, Jade, David works up the nerve to talk to her on the last day of high school. Jade was not very social in school as she was busy grieving for her late brother, and studying to get into pre-med at Brown, her father’s alma mater.
But when the couple really connects at Jade’s graduation party, an obsession begins. She experiences her first stirrings of passion, and he finds what he believes is his one true love. Of course, the overprotective Hugh won’t have any of it. David is Not Good Enough even though he fixes the family’s broken MG, inspires Hugh’s wife Anne (Joely Richardson) by being a “modern day romantic,” and instills confidence in Jade’s brother, Keith (Rhys Wakefield), the black sheep of the family.
The soap opera elements soon take over the narrative and never let go. Jade gives up an important internship to be with David. David witnesses Hugh being adulterously indiscrete. And Hugh finds a way to break up the teen couple. There is also a car accident, an arrest, and a restraining order, as well as various deceptions, misunderstandings, and a potentially tragic fire. Endless Love has it all, but director/co-writer Shana Feste never seems to make much of it convincing. For all the talk of love, longing, and desire, and all of David and Jade’s efforts to prove their devotion to each other, Endless Love never makes the love feel real. It’s heartbreaking that there is no actual passion on screen; the brief fireplace tryst does not count.
Part of the problem with the film is the casting. While Wilde is appropriately beautiful as the innocent Jade, Pettyfer looks far too old to play seventeen. (His IMDB page says he’s 23, but here, he looks almost 30). Meanwhile, Greenwood, who is usually a subdued character actor, overplays Hugh’s every overreaction. His taunting and persecution of David certainly means to put an end to the teen couple’s endless love, but too often it induces giggles.
Feste also has a bad tendency to wallpaper her film with music to drum emotion into viewers’ heads. That said, to her credit, Feste resists using the Diana Ross/Lionel Richie earworm from the original film.
Endless Love opens today in Philly area theaters.
Author: Gary M. Kramer
Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer. He is the co-editor of Directory of World Cinema: Argentina. Volumes 1 and 2, and teaches seminars at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer.