Much has changed in the 33 years between the original “Endless Love” — Franco Zefferelli’s lurid “Romeo and Juliet” updating, rife with bohemians, leftists, kinkiness, and genuine, obsessive love — and Shana Feste’s air-brushed, simple-minded remake opening Friday.
The gulf between haves and have-nots in the United States has grown deeper. And bliss montages have become longer and more frequent. But much remains the same, in particular the endless appeal of pretty people acting out the illusions of true love.
First, the class element. Turns out that David (Alex Pettyfer, low key and charming in a lumpish role that he actually handles better than Martin Hewett in the original) and Jade (Gabriella Wilde, who’s no simmering Brooke Shields) are in the same class — in high school, that is. Though long smitten with the seemingly inaccessible Jade, David does not connect with her until they pass lingering, longing glances at their graduation ceremony.
But he’s the son of an auto-repair shop owner (Robert Patrick, giving the role more than it deserves) and she’s the daughter of haughty Hugh Butterfield (Bruce Greenwood, who masters his single expression of arrogant exasperation), a wealthy cardiologist. Not only is she rich and beautiful, but she’s smart, too — heading to Brown to follow in her father’s footsteps. “She’s not real,” David’s best friend Mace (Dayo Okeniyi, who seems from another, better movie) warns him. And he’s right. Beaming, vapid, prancing barefoot in slow motion, bathed in a light that seems to emanate from within, Jade glows like a hologram.
But there is the other class thing, too, the social one. It crops up in the scene where David and Mace, who work as valets at Hugh’s country club, get dissed by some jerk with a Maserati. David ends up popping the guy. But that’s the old David, the one with a hot-headed past. Now he’s in love with Jade, and Jade is in love with him, and they both know it’s the real thing. Cue the bliss montages of bad pop music and cute hanky-panky.
Of course, Jade’s dad finds this unacceptable. He’s rich, snobby, bitter (his eldest son, his favorite, died tragically, but that’s another story), hypocritical, and treacherous. He won’t let this low-rent hunk ruin his daughter’s future. But don’t blame economic inequity for his attitude — Hugh’s nastiness is his own guilt-ridden fault (though with only a suggestion of the underlying incest allowed in the 1981 version). Besides, with his near-perfect SATs, and a letter from Jade’s long-suffering, ex-writer mom, Anne (Joely Richardson), David could probably get into college and become rich, too.
So it all comes down to endless love. Will it be enough to overcome class differences and a trite screenplay? It’s coming out on Valentine’s Day, isn’t? Though Zefferelli’s version was trashy and downright nuts, at least it made you feel the love. This pallid replay just seems endless.Peter Keough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.