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Endless Love

THE original 1981 version of Endless Love, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, fairly dripped with gooshy romanticism, but it didn’t stint on bad behaviour either. So compared with this remake, it was very brave in its depiction of teens in the grip of lust and obsession.

This contemporary version is dismayingly safe and non-offensive. Directed by Shana Feste ( Country Strong), it’s just a rose-coloured-glasses exercise in celebrating a love "worth fighting for."

Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) is a beautiful 17-year-old girl from a privileged family whose high school years pass in a daze, the result of her older brother’s death from cancer. Upon graduating, she is pursued by poor-but-honest schoolmate David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer), who has long nurtured a crush on the seemingly inapproachable Jade.

A romance blossoms, but it doesn’t sit well with Jade’s cardiologist dad Hugh (Bruce Greenwood) who believes David is not good enough for his daughter. Exacerbating the problem, Hugh is still in deep mourning for his dead son, to the extent that he is alienating himself from Jade, his patient wife Anne (Joely Richardson) and his other son, Keith (Rhys Wakefield).

In that respect, this movie is less a remake of Zeffirelli’s film and more a remake of Footloose, without all that distracting dancing.

Hugh does what he can to discourage their romance, such as getting a cop to pull David’s rap sheet, which includes a past arrest that will shine a harsh light on David’s family life.

Taken on its own, this movie is an uncomplicated tale of star-crossed lovers stocked with lovely, lush settings and beautiful actors. The sex is pretty, discreetly lit and conservative. In the original movie, Jade (who is actually 15, not 17) makes love with David in front of the Butterfield family fireplace late at night, with mom, secretly and tearfully, watching from upstairs. That scene would never have made it past contemporary focus groups, who would doubtless have scrawled "Ewww" all over their comment cards.

Another scene in which mom tries to seduce David? Not in this millennium, pal.

Juxtaposed with either the previous movie or Scott Spencer’s 1979 novel, this new version is pure pablum representing the Nicholas Sparks-ification of the romance genre, in which the young lovers are good and true and all the craziness is in the domain of the middle-aged.

The Blu-ray DVD includes — oh, lord, no — an extended ending as well as a doc on the making of the movie. ★½

 

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 29, 2014 C15

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