Review: ‘Endless Love’ is more Nicholas Sparks than the original

Lucky for you, the pickup-based love between Gabriella Wilde and Alex Pettyfer in "Endless Love" does in fact end. Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert
Lucky for you, the pickup-based love between Gabriella Wilde and Alex Pettyfer in “Endless Love” does in fact end.
Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert

‘Endless Love’
Director: Shana Feste
Stars: Gabriella Wilde, Alex Pettyfer
Rating: PG-13
2 (out of 5) Globes

When filmmaker John Waters, usually a champion of all things campy and trashy, refers to a film as “awful” and “excrutiating,” you know it has problems.

That’s what he once said about “Endless Love,” the 1981 adaptation of Scott Spencer’s 1979 novel, one of his favorite books. If you’ve seen the notorious film, you’ll understand what made Waters’ jaws so tight. Director Franco Zeffirelli — who already tackled doomed young love when he adapted “Romeo and Juliet” in 1968 — took Spencer’s tale of intense sexual obsession and made it ridiculous and histrionic, with the hopelessly wooden Martin Hewitt as the unhinged youth whose undying love for a girl (Brooke Shields) brought destruction to her whole family. Of course, even if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ve heard the Oscar-nominated, Lionel Richie-Diana Ross duet that served as the movie’s theme song your whole life. 

The new adaptation of “Love” doesn’t even have a new theme song, nor does it seem to bear any resemblance to Spencer’s novel or Zeffirelli’s original film. Despite leaving in a few familiar moments (there is still a love scene by a fireplace), director Shana Feste (“Country Strong”) goes for a revamping. Alex Pettyfer and Jaime King lookalike Gabriella Wilde play the main teen lovebirds, who, unlike the original lovebirds, fall in love AFTER they graduate high school. And instead of David coming from an affluent family and Jade being the product of a bohemian household, this has Jade as the introverted daughter of rich parents (Bruce Greenwood and Joely Richardson), while David is the son of a single, grease monkey dad (Robert Patrick).

Fortunately, this version of “Love” does stick to the original story’s central conflict, as Jade’s dad comes in between their love. Irrational to the point of being downright sociopathic, Jade’s father is the one who goes off the rails, not David. Despite having a checkered past with the law, the movie makes Pettyfer’s David out to be too earnest, too polite and too swoony to become a lovesick stalker.

Safe and predictable, there is nothing remotely surprising (and, therefore, interesting) about this rudimentary remake. The movie is so simple and sappy in its plotting that it seems more suited for the Hallmark Channel than the big screen. It also doesn’t take much to see that it’s sampling more from the work of Nicholas Sparks than Spencer’s book. Since there isn’t a movie adaptation of a Sparks novel coming out this February, as it seems to be the case every year, this movie jumps on this opportunity and envisions how Sparks would’ve handled “Love” if he wrote it.

This “Endless Love” may not be as much of a disaster as the virtually unwatchable original. But, just like that movie, it still doesn’t do right by the damn book.


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