Endless Love review: no more Daddy’s little girl

Endless Love yellow light Gabriella Wilde Alex Pettyfer

Shockingly not terrible, and says some things that need to be said more often, like how dads do not own their teenaged daughters.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

I can’t remember if I ever saw the 1981 Endless Love. That was the one with Brooke Shields and the pretty boy stranded on an island? [Checks IMDb.] Ah, no, it’s the other sensational teen sexfest of the era starring Brooke Shields. Which sounds nothing like the new movie of the same title, or the Scott Spencer novel they’re both allegedly based on, beyond the names of the characters. Why not just make a new movie and find a sappy new title for it? I don’t think the name recognition attached to “Endless Love” is all that strong, and what there is is likely mostly negative.

Mysteries of its provenance aside, this new Endless Love is shockingly not terrible. Oh, for certain it’s ridiculous, yet not entirely unaffecting, and it’s melodramatic, but not unpleasantly so. It’s also, for a teen romance of the moment, rather sweetly demure. The problems of rich white people may not amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, but for an inoffensive little movie, it says some things that need to be said more often by inoffensive little movies, like how dads do not own their teenaged daughters, and how teenaged daughters deserve to decide for themselves just what sort of lives they want. That shouldn’t sound so radical, and yet it does.

I might have been more kindly disposed toward the film before I sat down to watch it had I realized it’s from writer-director Shana Feste, who has made two other interesting melodramas about women, The Greatest and Country Strong — though both of those are juicier than this one, which is surprising considering that her cowriter here is Joshua Safran, who writes for the salacious TV series Gossip Girl. This is the sort of movie in which, when David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer: Magic Mike, In Time) says, “I watched her through all of high school,” it doesn’t even sound stalkerish. “Her” is Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde: Carrie, The Three Musketeers), now that they’ve finally just graduated, he has a chance to make a move. Oh, it’s not that he couldn’t before, it’s just that he’s pretty shy, and she’s been kind of a loner since her beloved older brother died. It’s all been very tragic.

Now, they’re supposed to be graduating in the Class of 2014, but the movie has to be making that up — that cannot be a thing, because it would mean they were born in 1997, which is just silly. (This website was born in 1997. People can’t have been born then.) And Wilde and Pettyfer look every inch the 20somethings they are. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t actually guffaw out loud when Jade proclaims to her father — who has dug up some “dirt” on David because he objects to the teens’ relationship — “I don’t care about his past.” I mean, he’s supposed to be 17, 18; his past is not yet in the past. But the contentious to-ing and fro-ing with Dad (Bruce Greenwood: Star Trek Into Darkness, Flight) is worth it for her other (not dead) older brother’s (Rhys Wakefield: After the Dark, The Purge) choice summation of Jade’s standing up to her father and his unreasonable demands that she break up with David: “Jade just became a woman,” he says with snarky pride.

It’s just a little thing, really, but it looms large. Dad needs to learn that Jade’s life is her own — Mom (Joely Richardson: Red Lights, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is trying to get it through his thick overprotective skull, but it’s hard going. And Jade needs to learn this as well. Endless Love really isn’t much about a teenaged romance, per se, but about a young woman taking control of her own destiny. This is so much Jade’s story that it only just barely squeaks by passing a reverse Bechdel Test: there is hardly ever a moment here in which two men — also including David’s father (Robert Patrick: Identity Thief, Identity Thief) — talking to each other onscreen aren’t discussing Jade. She is the center of attention, she gets what she wants, and wonder of wonders, she isn’t even punished for it! It’s hard to imagine that her passion for David, and his for her, will endure forever, or even for long — though maybe it will, too — but it’s equally hard to imagine that she will suffer for it, either.

Look, I’m not saying this is an especially good movie. But if I had a teenaged daughter, I wouldn’t be worried about her picking up any terrible ideas about a girl’s or woman’s place in the world from it, like I would with a lot of other films aimed at teenaged girls. I might make her father watch it, too.

Endless Love by Scott Spencer [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.]

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