'Endless Love': watered-down remake

McClatchy-Tribune News ServiceFebruary 13, 2014 

Endless Love

Gabriella Wilde and Alex Pettyfer star in Endless Love. The 1981 original featured Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt, now a home inspector.



    'Endless Love'


    PG-13 for sexual content, brief partial nudity, some language and teen partying. Universal. 1:43. Georgetown, Hamburg, Movie Tavern, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester, Woodhill.

Kids, this is not your parents' Endless Love.

Scott Spencer's 1979 National Book Award-nominated novel of a romantic obsession so strong that it flirts with mental illness has had its sharp edges rubbed off, its dramatic weight lifted and its focus shifted in this adaptation from the director of Country Strong.

There's nothing dangerous about this teen love on steroids. There's no showcase sex scene, the selling point of the infamous 1981 adaptation by Franco Zeffirelli and starring Brooke Shields. The kids here come off as perfectly reasonable; the adults are the problem — but even their efforts to separate the lovebirds are watered down.

Still, even without that tragic Romeo-Juliet edge or the hit theme song by Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross, this Endless Love has a stellar cast that keeps things real even if the lighter touches turn this into a far more conventional teen romance.

Alex Pettyfer is David, a car mechanic's son who falls — hard — for Jade, played by Carrie co-star Gabriella Wilde.

They graduate from high school together, never having spoken. But David has seen "the possibility of us." Jade — shut off from her peers, smothered by a family still mourning a brother who died two years before — is swept off her feet.

He rescues her ill-planned graduation party, and when he gets off on the wrong foot with her stern surgeon dad (Bruce Greenwood, terrific), David makes it up to the doctor by fixing the family's ancient MGB sports car.

Jade's mom (Joely Richardson) is touched. Jade's brother (Rhys Wakefield of The Purge) is charmed.

Only Dr. Hugh (Greenwood) is seeing red. He has his daughter's future planned, and the boy is interfering.

The way this story is supposed to work is that Dad's threats and efforts to keep the kids apart work on David's fragile, lovesick mind and make him desperate. But Pettyfer (Magic Mike) doesn't suggest that, as this David is written as all lovesick and moon-eyed. He's harmless.

Jade is in love for the first time, but Wilde doesn't get across the breathless yearning that raises the stakes of their affair when Daddy tries to split them up.

Robert Patrick is winning as David's gruff but indulgent dad, and Dayo Okeniyi scores as David's goofy, loveable pal Mace.

Director/co-writer Shana Feste concocts what could have been an engaging if stunningly predictable Endless Love, from montage courtship sequences set to pop music to Jade's dad taking the boy out on a boat to set him straight about what's not going to happen with his daughter.

Greenwood and Richardson make a fine, discordant couple, and the young leads have a certain chemistry. If only Feste had realized she'd stripped almost all the conflict from the story, that you can't flip motivations and turn everybody into "reasonable" people and have anything like an interesting drama left over.

Even the Brooke Shields version got that right.

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