Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Remake puts soft focus on young lust

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Many couples will be having arguments over what movie to see this Valentine's Day weekend: RoboCop or Endless Love.

Curiously, both movies are remakes of films from the 1980s. And both of these contemporary iterations opt for a safe, non-offensive approach to material that was handled more provocatively a few decades back.

The original 1981 version of Endless Love, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, fairly dripped with romanticism, but it was comparatively brave in its depiction of teens in the grip of lust and obsession.

This film, directed by Shana Feste (Country Strong), is 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 says outright David is not good enough for his daughter. Exacerbating the problem, Hugh is still in deep mourning for his 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 this 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, insisting that Jade take an offer of internship he has arranged at a hospital. He also has a cop 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. (It's a toss-up as to who's prettier: Wilde or Pettyfer. Lucky for Wilde, Pettyfer didn't break out "Blue Steel.")

The sex is pretty, discreetly lit and conservative. In the original movie, Jade loses her virginity to 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.

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

Let's hope Feste doesn't take on Shakespeare next. She probably wouldn't have a problem with Romeo and Juliet surviving at the end.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 14, 2014 D3

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