Directed by Shana Feste. Starring Alex Pettyfer, Joely Richardson, Robert Patrick, Rhys Wakefield, Bruce Greenwood, Gabriella Wilde, Dayo Okeniyi, Emma Rigby, Anna Enger, Patrick Johnson, Gabriela Fraile. Written by Shana Feste, Joshua Safran.
Ah, remakes. Nobody likes ‘em. But given the state of creative bankruptcy in Hollywood – and the lack of confidence in anything that doesn’t have a pre-sold fanbase – original material gets rarer and rarer as remakes, sequels, and adaptations become the name of the game. (This makes the utter failure of something like Transcendence even more disheartening.)
When people complain about remakes, they’re usually comparing them to the originals. They don’t match up, they tarnish the image. So, the line of thought goes, why not remake a bad film? How can a remake of Plan 9 from Outer Space possibly be worse than the original? They didn’t get it right the first time around, so maybe they can do better this time.
Prime opportunity: the 1981 film version of Endless Love, which, despite being somewhat popular, was terrible. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli (Romeo and Juliet) and starring Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt (and a young Tom Cruise, in one of his first film roles), it was a box office success but a critical disaster, earning six Razzie nominations. In his review (which was kinder than others), Roger Ebert said that the movie “does not understand the particular strengths of the novel that inspired it, does not convince us it understands adolescent love, does not seem to know its characters very well, and is a narrative and logical mess”.
The novel that inspired it, by the way, is Scott Spencer’s bestselling (and highly-praised) 1979 novel of the same name. The ’81 film was widely derided for its divergences from the novel, so you know that there’s some rich source material in there, just waiting to be adapted. Could another version of this story be any worse of an adaptation?
Enter 2014’s Endless Love, directed by Shana Feste (Country Strong) and starring Alex Pettyfer (Magic Mike) and Gabriella Wilde (Carrie) as the, uh… doomed lovers who are fated to, uh… fall in love.
Pettyfer is David Elliot, the impoverished but streetwise lad who chooses to work in the auto shop run by his hard-luck father (Robert Patrick) rather than attend college after graduating from high school. Wilde is Jade Butterfield, the rich but unpopular daughter of Anne (Joely Richardson) and Hugh (Bruce Greenwood).
You might guess that these two opposites get together, and kiss (and kiss, and kiss…), and make love, and fall in love. What’s missing in this new adaptation is anything else that might be considered plot, story, or character development. Jade must choose whether to stay with Alex over the summer, or go on an internship with a doctor. David must choose whether to stay at his father’s shop, or go off to college.
And oh yeah, Jade’s father doesn’t exactly like David. Towards the end, the film shifts gears as Jade’s father goes on an all-out assault against David; will their love survive his wrath?
The character names are the same as the book, and there’s a house fire thrown in there somewhere, too. That is all that remains of Spencer’s original creation in this loose remake of the 1981 film, which was already a loose adaptation of the novel. All that’s left are clichés and broad brush strokes, as a once-interesting story has been pared down to the most basic elements imaginable for mainstream consumption.
While most of the technical aspects of the film are polished, the actors struggle with dialogue so cornball it would have been outdated in the earlier film; Pettyfer and Wilde are sufficiently bland leads (and, in the fleeting moments when they’re not bland, lend the film some unintentional humor), but Greenwood, Patrick, and Richardson don’t belong in this kind of thing. Rhys Wakefield plays Jade’s brother, to little effect; Emma Rigby is David’s ex, used only as a plot device; and Dayo Okeniyi shows up as the token African-American best friend.
It is insane that this insipid version of Endless Love exists. Bland, dull, and lifeless, a truly endless and draining experience to sit through, it actually manages to be worse than the much-maligned original, which at least tried to tell a story, and gave you some unintentional yuks in the process. Now that’s an achievement.