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Movie review: 'Endless Love'

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Let me ask you something: If an uptight father is trying to find a way to split his daughter and her boyfriend up -- off the top of your head -- what’s the most obvious, cliché thing he could possibly do?

If you said, “hire a detective to dig into the boy’s past,” then DING DING DING, you’re correct!

Let’s continue: If a guy is sitting and talking with his ex-girlfriend for a moment after getting into a fight with his current girlfriend, what’s going to happen next? Yes, “the girlfriend is going to walk in, see the two, and then instantly run away” is the right answer!

Now, these may seem like harmless additions to a standard teenage-driven movie. But when stirring, psychologically rich source material is forsaken in favor of these kinds of clichés, then I believe we’ve gotten to the crux of precisely what’s wrong with Hollywood today. And if nothing else, “Endless Love” is the perfect poster child for just that.

If I’m being hard on it, it’s not just because I deeply crave something resembling originality in today’s cinema. It’s because foolishly, I went into this movie expecting at least some of the darkness, beauty, and insight that I found in spades in Scott Spencer’s 1979 novel of the same name. In the novel, the character of David sets his girlfriend’s house on fire – with her and her entire family inside – after being told to stay away for 30 days. It’s an inciting incident that leads into a story of obsessive adolescent love and its consequences. The book was adapted into a movie in 1981 starring Brooke Shields, and while it received a critical bashing, I can’t imagine it being much worse than Shana Feste’s lifeless remake.

Here, just about everything from the original story is thrown out except for the names of the characters: David (Alex Pettyfer), the son of a mechanic, has lusted after Jade (Gabriella Wilde) all throughout high school. Jade – who comes from a very wealthy family -- is a shy, bookish girl who has kept to herself since the death of her brother. (She’s an absolute stunner, but in movie universe, that’s the sort of thing that nobody notices.) When the two finally meet right after graduation, they form an unbreakable bond, much to the dismay of Jade’s father (Bruce Greenwood), who doesn’t want anything to get in the way of her bright med school future.

What I found the most frustrating about “Endless Love” is that it doesn’t even seem to be making an effort. Actual scenes of romance and passion are given up in favor of pretty montages set to indie songs. Dialogue is squeezed into scenes to explain how a character is feeling instead of letting us realize it organically – like when Jade’s mother (Joely Richardson) pens a letter of recommendation for David in which she writes that he “awakens desires” in those around him. Not only is a perfect example of how awful the script is, but it’s also so inappropriate and lacking in any sort of logic that it’s laughable. And it doesn’t end there. The whole story, and all the unnecessary drama that exists to push it forward, is one giant contrivance. The father is there solely to keep them apart (his actions quickly begin to defy reason), and every additional sub-plot (like the dead brother) seems crammed in there as a hollow effort to give the characters emotional depth.

And all of this is made worse by the fact that “Endless Love” started off rather promising. Sure, it was still your average boy-meets-girl/star-crossed lovers story, but it was sweet and entertaining and sometimes that’s enough. I found myself ready and willing to forgive it for failing as an adaption, because it was working as a nice (if lightweight) diversion of a movie. However, by the second half, both brain and heart steadily deteriorated, leaving in its wake monotony, contrivances, and yes, more mind-numbingly stupid clichés.

Rating: D+

For showtimes in Miami Beach, click here

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