When a movie begins with a slow motion sequence focusing on one girl in a crowd, with voice-over saying “There is a girl, a beautiful girl...” and ends on a similar note, describing “a boy worth fighting for,” you know you’re in for a sapfest.
I admit, I did not have high expectations going into Endless Love. The trailer reminded me of those cheesy made-for-TV Hallmark movies, only this time accompanied by the soundtrack of a 15-year-old girl’s iPod.
Turns out it was everything I expected.
Endless Love, a remake of the 1981 film based on the novel of the same name, tells the timeless tale of a low-class boy, David, with a charming smile and killer biceps (Alex Pettyfer) meeting a sheltered high-class girl, Jade, who always had her nose in a book (Gabriella Wilde). Of course this is a story where a single touch of hands leads to undeniable romance and their love can conquer all. Throw in a little conflict surrounding the fact that they come from different worlds and that’s the movie. The film bears little resemblance to the original save for a few plot points and characters, and frankly the original is a lot more interesting despite its own flaws.
Take a moment and think of every romance movie cliché. Even better, try and think of every adorable romantic fantasy that could be written in a Nicholas Sparks novel. I swear every single one is in this film.
Tragic backstories? Check. Carefree montages in a convertible with the top down? Check. A disapproving father? Check. Confessions in the rain? Check. Sex in front of a fireplace and the accompanying montage of close-up making out with an indie song playing softly in the background? Check. Almost every five minutes there is an eye-roll inducing moment in the saga of David and Jade’s relationship. Also spoiler alert, their love has no end — shocking I know.
The male lead, David, is constructed to be so likable, relatable and good it’s almost sickening. He works hard, he apologizes, he compromises and of course he loves endlessly. I spent the entire movie hoping that he would have a flaw or some sort of depth that would make him interesting but to no avail. Even when it seemed the film was working towards some sort of actual characterization, that development was restructured into him just loving too much. Pettyfer, known best for his role in Magic Mike and his accompanying abs, doesn’t bring much to the character beyond forced likability and a bright white smile.
The female lead, Jade, is a contrast in her unlikability. She doesn’t make any of her own choices. The film glorifies this, essentially painting its heroine as a girl who doesn’t make her own choices because she doesn’t have to — either she’s influenced by her father or her love for David. There is nothing else there and she comes off as empty and cold. David’s best friend Mace (Dayo Okeniyi) jokingly refers to her as an “ice queen” at the beginning of the film before she and David meet, and she never loses that title throughout Wilde’s flat portrayal.
One of the only redeeming factors of the film is the performance by Bruce Greenwood as Jade’s father. While verging on the stereotypically disapproving father of every angst teen love film, his character actually experiences some development and conflict that makes the side plot worth following. Also, David’s best friend Mace, Jade’s brother Keith (Robert Patrick) and their accompanying humorous moments, stand out as tiny and rare sparks of light attempting to shine through all of the sickly sweet syrup of love.
The message of this film, chocked full of cliché tropes, is that love will overcome anything and that love is the most important thing in the world. It’s idealized and shaped into this fantasy dream world that will leave some theatre-goers with warm and fuzzy feelings of “awww”’ in their hearts and many others with a bitter sense of cynicism and the feeling that they just rewatched The Notebook, The Vow, Dear John, and every other romance of the last 10 years rolled into one sickly sweet package.
This Valentine’s Day, Endless Love is a great date movie if you’re looking to feel inadequate with how much you love your significant other, because the relationship depicted in the film is so dreamy it’s completely unattainable. It’s also a great movie for singles looking to eat a tub of feelings and resent all relationships. Take those together and I guess you have a win-win situation.