DIR: Shana Feste • WRI: Shana Feste, Joshua Safran • PRO: Pamela Abdy, Stephanie Savage, Josh Schwartz, Scott Stuber • DOP: Andrew Dunn •ED: Maryann Brandon • MUS: Christophe Beck • DES: Clay A. Griffith • CAST: Gabriella Wilde, Alex Pettyfer, Bruce Greenwood, Robert Patrick
David and Jade meet and fall in love in the Summer after graduation from high school. David works in his father’s garage. Jade comes from a privileged family who disapprove of their romance and try to persuade her not to jeopardise the future that’s been laid out for her by her overbearing father.
From David’s (Alex Pettyfer) opening narration, detailing how long he’s been in love with Jade (Gabriella Wilde) but never had the guts to tell her, it is immediately clear what Endless Love is and who its target demographic is. This is a story about two star-crossed lovers that’s literally as old as Shakespeare, merely re-tooled to appeal to today’s 21st Century teen market.
All that would be absolutely fine, usually. At the end of the day, movies are a product and we, the audience, are the consumers. Any studio worth its salt knows that teenage audiences, who themselves are wrestling with their emotions and their place in the world, love a good romantic tale about boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl through some generic obstacle (read: plot contrivance), boy-wins-girl-back in impressively dramatic style, while all the characters learn something deep and meaningful about themselves.
It’s been done countless times before with results varying from forgettable to dire, with the exception of surprises such as 2004’s The Notebook or 2001’s Save the Last Dance.
With Endless Love setting its stall out early about what type of film it was going to be, it was always going to be an uphill battle to win me over. So once I witnessed the overt sexualisation on display in early scenes, the film had lost me completely with no chance of winning me back. It was jarringly uncomfortable.
Very early on there’s a lustful glance at Jade’s bare thighs as a breeze sends her skirt northwards. Later on, once the romance has developed somewhat, there’s a love scene in front of a fire (I’d say “Cliché ahoy!” here, but then if I did that, there’d be no room for an actual review), in which the firelight silhouettes Jade’s body through her nightgown, making this scene more about the physical payoffs than the emotional sensitivities. Perhaps that’s the world these films operate in now, but when body image is already a difficult issue for many young teens, this sort of body worship smacks of blatant irresponsibility on the part of the filmmakers.
Narratively speaking, it’s a shame the audience can’t talk to the characters because what life lessons were going to be learned were blindingly obvious from very early on. If we had a magical golden ticket, à la Last Action Hero, we could’ve saved them the trouble.
Things only improve when the more seasoned cast are on-screen, (most notably, a tasty set-to between the Robert Patrick and Bruce Greenwood patriarchs) but then the clumsy dialogue brings you back down to earth with a bump when you realise that everyone’s only in this for the money rather than the artistic vision. You’re left shaking your head, knowing that both Greenwood and Patrick are capable of so much more.
With a female writer-director (Shana Feste), it’s alarming to see how weak and submissive the female characters in Endless Love are. Yes, both Jade and her mother, Anne (Joely Richardson), eventually throw off the shackles of Greenwood’s overbearing authority figure, but the fact that it takes the entirety of the running time to get there is frustrating.
All in all, Endless Love is a clumsy, predictable, by-the-numbers, cynically made love story set in a world completely removed from reality, populated by one-dimensional caricatures, built purely to cash in on the impressionable teen market by offering unrealistic expectations. It’s merely a paycheque for all involved. Endless Love? It certainly felt endless.
Endless Love is released on 14th February 2014