MRR Review: "Endless Love"

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The story of a privileged girl and a charismatic boy whose instant desire sparks a love affair made only more reckless by parents trying to keep them apart.
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Rating: PG-13

Length: 103 minutes

Release Date: February 14, 2014

Directed by: Shana Feste

Genre: Drama / Romance

 

A remake of the 1981 film that starred Brooke Shields, "Endless Love" is a bit of a take on the ageless tale of "Romeo and Juliet." The new version of "Endless Love" stars Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde, reprising the role made famous by Shields more than 30 years earlier.

"Endless Love" tells the story of David Elliot and Jade Butterfield, two young lovers with different backgrounds. Jade is from a wealthy, privileged family, while David is not. Nonetheless, David is highly charismatic. The two fall in love, a relationship that becomes more intense because of the opposition of their parents and the efforts of their parents to keep them apart.

The latest incarnation of "Endless Love," which like its predecessor is based on the novel by Scott Spencer of the same name, deviates from the book and the earlier movie by providing moviegoers with a different ending. Perhaps the decision to change the ending was director Shana Feste's attempt to provide the public with something new or to appeal to the a new generation of moviegoers who might be perceived as more sophisticated than those who embraced the 1981 version.

Feste, who shares screenwriting credits with Joshua Safran, marks her third directorial effort with "Endless Love." She manages the ensemble cast well, ensuring that the characters develop appropriately and interact effectively in a manner that ratchets the tension tightly until the film's climax. Perhaps more than her prior films, which include "Country Strong," "Endless Love" truly bears her mark as a director. 

The screenplay, while formulaic and somewhat predictable (despite the fresh ending) works. No matter how many different ways the iconic tale of Romeo and his Juliet is told and retold, the tale is engaging, timeless and easy for most audience members to relate to on some level. This connection with the audience is even stronger in the new "Endless Love" because of the work of the movie's leading players, Pettyfer and Wilde.

Pettyfer, as David, portrays a magnetic and likable young man. He is earnest, and his love for the forbidden Jade is obvious and believable. He manages to craft a character that is compelling without playing the role in a manner that could be panned as over the top. Pettyfer's performance is nicely nuanced, allowing an audience to feel his angst as he tries to build a future with the privileged Jade, literally against all odds.

Wilde, as Jade, is the archetypal daughter of well-to-do parents. In "Endless Love," she balances a sense of respect for her parents and her heritage against what is her true love for the socially imperfect David. She is not merely her parents' foil, but rather a young woman truly torn and wanting all aspects of her life to somehow harmonize, which ultimately proves essentially impossible.

British actress Joely Richardson, best known for her work in American television, delivers a strong performance as Jade's disapproving mother, Anne Butterfield. She has a regal bearing that renders his disapproval of her daughter's romantic liaison seemingly something more than just standard "he is not good enough for you" fare. Rather, Jade's mother conveys a clear message that David does not do justice to the family, and he never will when it comes to her daughter's love interest. There is a coolness to the character of Anne that is stark and yet believable.

Richardson is paired with Bruce Greenwood, as Hugh Butterfield, Jade's distant and disapproving father. While Anne's disdain for the young David is multifaceted and coldly intense, Hugh's response is dismissive and based primarily on the young man's lack of money. Social status really is not the issue for Hugh as much as the man's perception that David will never be able to appropriately care for his daughter.

Robert Patrick, known for his star turn in the "Terminator" franchise, is engaging as David's hardscrabble father. Gruff and oftentimes belligerent, he no more wants his son to connect with the wealthy Jade than do the Butterfields want their daughter involved with David. His preconceptions and prejudices mirror those of the Butterfields.

The original "Endless Love" garnered acclaim for its soundtrack. The music in the latest incarnation is the product of Christopher Beck, a man with significant musical experience in Disney films. The soundtrack associated with the new "Endless Love" is strong and contributes smartly to the tense arc of the film.

Younger moviegoers likely will find "Endless Love" entertaining and compelling. At the same time, older audiences may feel nostalgic viewing a familiar tale, despite its shift in ending. Overall, the plot keeps a moviegoer's interest throughout, and the cast members, particularly the leading characters, turn in solid performances.

Rating: 3 out of 5