Saturday, March 1, 2014

Exactly As It Was Previewed To Be: Why Endless Love Disappoints.

The Good: Acting is okay, Direction is good
The Bad: Painfully predictable plot, Formulaic character development
The Basics: Endless Love is a disappointing romance that is so formulaic and obvious that it’s almost unsurprising that pretty much the entire film is shown in the preview trailer.

Right around Valentine’s Day every year, movie studios release films that are date movies. For 2014, Nicholas Sparks fans had to sit out a pure rendition of one of his books adapted for the big screen, but they get the next best thing with Endless Love. Endless Love has all of the same conceits as a Nicholas Sparks book/movie and it is even presented by the studio like a Sparks film would be. There is something about the romantic drama geared for Valentine’s Day release that inspires movie studios to show virtually the entire film in the preview trailer.

And my first reaction to Endless Love is “Poor Bruce Greenwood.” Bruce Greenwood was cut out of a future in the Star Trek franchise in last year’s Star Trek Into Darkness (reviewed here!) and now he appears in a blasé romantic drama as the film’s antagonist . . . who is written so monolithically that there’s really no cliché left unplayed with his character. Greenwood plays Hugh Butterfield, a protective father still mourning the loss of one of his three children, who keeps his smart, blonde daughter in check so tightly that the seventeen year-old is a virtual unknown to her classmates.

On the day of their graduation from high school, David Elliot notices the reclusive girl from his class, Jade Butterfield. When the Butterfield family goes out to the local inn later, where David works, Jade is filled with the desire to get to know her classmates better and she asks her father to allow her to throw a graduation party. When David and his friend Mace get fired from the Inn for borrowing a car they drive off when they are supposed to valet park, even Jade’s father, Hugh, notices. Hugh recognizes David when he arrives at the Butterfield house during the party and is upset when Jade shows a clear attraction to him (including coming out of a closet with David when Hugh does a toast for his daughter at the party).

With two weeks to go until Jade will leave for a prestigious internship, Jade and David begin a steamy, young relationship. After the two weeks, Jade stands up to her father and rejects the internship. To try to drive a wedge between Jade and David, Hugh takes his family to their cabin. David follows, invited by Jade, but Hugh continues to dig into David’s past to push the young couple apart. Despite David witnessing Hugh making out with another woman, Hugh works to break his daughter and David up. David, Jade, and their friends have a wild night out – including breaking into a zoo – which the jealous Jenny (a classmate who harbors feelings for David) uses to try to win David away from Jade. After David is arrested, he and Hugh get into a fight and Hugh pushes Jade away from David. But, their love is not to be denied and, despite a restraining order from Hugh, David and Jade continue to have feelings for one another.

The basic premise of Endless Love is a fundamentally flawed one. Following a tragedy like the death of a student in high school, it is incredibly unlikely that Jade would be an unknown to all of her peers. After a decade in school with a person, it’s not like everyone forgets who they are – especially after a publicly known tragedy. So, the idea that Jade is utterly unknown by anyone in her graduating class is too tough a sell from the beginning.

Endless Love is also off in some of the critical details. Like all formulaic romantic dramas, there is a climactic event, in this case a house fire. In addition to having insurance, rich people like the Butterfields have smoke detectors. In fact, in order to be insured well, they have to have a lot of smoke detectors and they usually have a crapton of fire extinguishers. For as bland as the “love at first sight” romance of Endless Love is, the failure of suspension of disbelief for me really came with the idea that a candle fire could possibly spread so far in a house of people so obviously wealthy. For all my issues with the upper class, no one knows how to protect their own stuff like the fabulously rich (especially those who are characterized as working their way up to it).

On the character front, the romance between Jade and David has to be one of the least interesting cinematic couplings of all time. David is just the first guy to come along and pay attention to Jade. One suspects that the reason the two characters are seen doing so little other than having sex is that they really don’t have much to talk about. Despite the closing monologue to Endless Love, there’s nothing demonstratively wonderful about the romance between Jade and David.

As for performances, the best chemistry in the film is between Bruce Greenwood and Robert Patrick. Greenwood and Patrick share a single, ridiculous, scene (Patrick’s Harry Elliot comments on how he saw David and Jade together when there was no evidence of that in the movie!), but the two seasoned actors have great banter between each other that feels very natural. Greenwood might be playing a monolithic antagonist and Patrick may be playing yet another working class man struggling to provide a better life for his family, but the two actors play protective and smart well such that when they meet on film their scene actually makes for a late high point for the movie.

The on-screen chemistry between Gabriella Wilde (Jade) and Alex Pettyfer (David) is minimal. Wilde seems to be trading on her stereotypical Hollywood good looks without backing Jade up with any sort of screen presence. Pettyfer, who has the ability to present characters with decent emotional range, makes David into a moody, mysterious young man whose outbursts of emotion are more expressive of anger than love. When the two are onscreen together, there is little emotional connection or resonance to them individually or as a couple.

I didn’t remember seeing the preview trailer for Endless Love until I was about three minutes into the film. But then, the entire thing came back to me and I realized I had, essentially, seen the whole film. For a genre plagued by predictability and formulaic conceits, an over-revealing trailer is the death knell of a romantic drama. If you are tempted to watch Endless Love, save yourself the hour and a half and watch the two minute thirty second version instead; you won’t have missed much.

For other romance films, please check out my reviews of:
The Vow
Letters To Juliet
Lust For Love


Check out how this movie stacks up against others I have reviewed by visiting my Movie Review Index Page where films are organized from best to worst!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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