Endless Love Film Review

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

I went along to a press screening for Endless Love to review for the film blog The Film Circle

Title: Endless Love

Release date: February 14th 2014, Valentines Day

Directed by: Shana Feste

Starring: Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde

Rating: 12A

What’s it about: Privileged beautiful loner Jade Butterfield (Wilde) meets die hard romantic David Elliot (Pettyfer) after graduating high school and their immediate spark seems to signal true love…but Jade’s father is determined to keep the pair apart.

Director Shana Feste clearly has one target audience in mind with this adaptation of Scott Spencer’s novel of the same name; pre-teen girls who’ve yet to even have their first kiss and are therefore utterly seduced by this beautiful if completely unrealistic depiction of first love.
The audience at the screening I attended was approximately 90% female but I’m guessing they are a little more world weary, as there were frequent guffaws and titters at the more over the top romantic (here read cheesy) lines and grand gestures.

The film begins at the graduation of the two protagonists, David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer) and Jade Butterworth (Gabriella Wilde) and their classmates. David has lusted after Jade from afar for years but never approached the shy and reclusive bombshell, who is recovering from a personal family tragedy. This was the first piece of Hollywood ridiculousness; while Wilde pulled off an introverted and shy over-achiever with a delicacy and charm, there is no way she would have gone lonely at high school, she is too attractive and wealthy not to have been embraced by the popular crowd. If it had been an intentional withdrawal it could have been believable but there is a scene where Jade is asked to take a photo of some fellow graduates, which she excitedly misreads as being asked to be in the picture. She plays it down to her brother, but the scene doesn’t ring true.

David is painted as a decent, hard-working, fun, down to earth kinda guy – close to his father, calms down his best friend when he’s mistreated by a patron at the country club where they work as valets, ‘wild’ enough to suggest Jade join them when they take a said patrons car for a spin. He then completely takes the blame for the escapade and punches the customer in the face to preserve Jade’s honour. So far, so perfect, ensuring Jade and the young female audience are smitten.

The film appeals to a young female audience using a number of cinematic devices. A young, beautiful cast living the all American dream – the wealthy Butterfield’s have a large, plush home and a sexy beach house, lots of land and multiple cars; it’s aspirational without being alienating. David and his father own a modest but comfortable home and his own business. All the young cast dress like an Abercrombie and Fitch advert; preppy and cute, plaid shirts and denim shorts, floaty dresses, basic T-shirts. Nothing edgy or directional about the characters presentation at all, just very beautiful in an almost achievable way. Scenery is middle American suburban but with touches of nature, lakes, fields and the like. Endless Love in fact presents an almost utopian vision of modern America, where the racial mixing runs not only among the students at the school but among all ages, in multiple social settings and without comment. This, being set in Georgia where they had their first integrated dance only last year, seems fabricated to cynical ole me.

The cinematography perfectly captures the magic of a first love and heavily uses the motif of light to represent the purity and dreamlike quality of the blossoming romance between the two. Their first dance (I know, who holds dance competitions at a house party?!) is marred by a power cut that sends them scuttling into a dark closet, the First Kiss takes place backlit by the twinkling outdoor lights of jade’s sprawling drive. They make love by fire and canoodle under fireworks. Heady summer days are played out as long montage shots of dappled sunlight in fields and on lakes, the soundtrack soft and inoffensive – not nearly as provocative as the Florence and the Machine cover of Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted to Love’ used in the trailer.

Here lies my main problem with the film. It tries to sell itself as a great story of doomed lovers, perhaps in the wake of the Twilight success this type of angst in love is more popular. The tagline on the poster is ‘Say goodbye to Innocence’, however there is no real emotional turmoil and no explosive build up of tension or heartbreak, largely because there is no real reason and the reveals of David’s family secret are poorly delivered and actually not that deep. Jade’s father Hugh (Bruce Greenwood) believes his daughter is better than David, fine, most fathers do. But the film builds David up to be such a likeable guy and his lack of ambition is quickly remedied by an about turn regarding his decision to go to university, in fact he has won over the rest of the family so marvelously that Jade’s mother Ann (Joely Richardson) writes him a glowing letter of reference, so Pops’ vitriol seems misplaced, his investigation into his background unwarranted. David is more than happy to wax lyrical about his simple desire to love and be loved (cue swooning girls)

Dad Hugh’s affair is sloppily paced and underexplored in a bid to make us dislike him even further and in a scene where he takes David out on a boat to threaten him, he is shot in a mid close-up with only rolling grey clouds behind him, God-like, failed to scare the audience; in fact it’s absurdity only produced laughter.  Greenwood simply lacked the physical presence or intensity of performance to become the formidable character the film requires.

In general the characters lack depth and there is no real sense of development. Performances, while adequate are neither particularly moving or dynamic. The stand out performance for me was that of David’s best friend, Mace (Dayo Okeniyi) who’s coming timing and delivery was perfect and provided the perfect offset to David’s more serious nature. Pettyfer, who is British as is Wilde, slips into a perfect plummy Brit accent for a phone call, which was also a nice touch.
The reasons for the lovers to be kept apart are flimsy and so the desperate, fast editing of some of the scenes seems forced and over egged.
Preened and too perfect for reality, Endless Love will likely be  a hit with young girls but I was quite happy when it did End.

2 stars out of 5 

*All images sourced from Google

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