LOWEST RATING: "The Turd discovered behind Harry's Charbroil and Dining Lounge"
Starring: Gabriella Wilde, Alex Pettyfer, Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson, Robert Patrick
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Each time a song was insultingly coughed up into my face like some lump of technicolor phlegm by one of the infinite number of contemporary performers on the soundtrack of this horrendous 2014 film adaptation of Scott Spencer's magnificent novel, all I kept thinking was how much these gibbering gibbons had less collective talent than an infected cyst lodged deep inside Lionel Richie's ass-crack and a snot-tangled nostril hair poking out of the proboscis of Diana Ross. They were, of course, the duo du jour who crooned a number-one-with-a-bullet duet of the execrable (Oscar-nominated!!!) theme song "Endless Love" from Franco Zeffirelli's abominable 1981 picture which, like this 2014 version, also butchered the same great book. The intrusive pop tunes become so annoying - wedged, as they are into scenes like unwelcome music videos or worse, cascading noisily over dialogue - that they make Christophe's Beck's whiny instrumental score seem just this side of a lobotomized Bernard Herrmann as rendered by the 101 Strings Orchestra.
However, let it be said now, that the 1981 Endless Love which, was a sludge heap of immense proportions, must now surely be considered one of the greatest movies ever made compared to this 2014 bowl of Charles Manson's anal drippings. If Zeffirelli created a cinematic equivalent to an aborted foetus served up on a dollar-store paper plate, then it's clear the idiot-sans-savante, Shana Feste (she of the abysmal Country Strong) and who purportedly directed this version, must surely have outdistanced the cinematic abortionist styling of Zeffirelli and bloody well ripped a foetus from a womb with a rusty coat hanger, then stomped upon the gelatinous blob with the abandon of a lead performer in a crack-fuelled performance of "Lord of the Dance", then took a huge, rancid crap upon it and finally, with a hearty "Voila!", called it a movie.
I really have to ask: Why bother making this movie if the goal was not to improve upon Zeffirelli's? If the goal was to improve upon it, the manner in which its makers went about doing so suggests they must surely be afflicted with (what Borat might call) "the retardation". And, of course, the more pressing question is this: Why even bother to adapt a great book that, given its vivid characters, political subtext, emotional landscape, rich setting and superb story structure - all of it sitting there for even the most unimaginative filmmakers to take advantage of - why, oh why, oh why, butcher and/or patchwork quilt everything that makes the story great in the first place? If any book seemed movie-ready, it was this one and yet, it took not one, but two sets of brick-heads to screw it up within the course of Christ's rather short lifespan, 33 years.
At least Zeffirelli, in his addled fashion, attempted (albeit badly) to inject the movie with something resembling genuine passion and even vaguely acknowledged elements of Spencer's book that anyone with half-a-brain would have to do. Such is not the case here. The gaggle of morons leading the 2014 charge upon Spencer's fine prose appear to have been interested in crafting little more than an innocuous machine-tooled teen romance aimed at a Valentine's Day opening to sucker in as many undiscriminating female viewers as possible. I have no doubt the brain dead little ladies will get exactly what they paid for.
While it is true that every single person involved in the writing, direction and production of Endless Love 2014 is clearly a moron, even they must be bloody Rhodes Scholars compared to the brain-bereft slugs at Universal Pictures who hold all the remake rights to Spencer's book and chose to green light this utterly detestable piece of work in just the manner in which it's been wrought.
Endless Love tells the tale of teen lovers David (Alex Pettyfer) and Jade (Gabriella Wilde). He's poor. She's privileged. He's unsure about his plans after high school graduation. She's headed for university. She's going to be an eminent doctor just like her Dad, Hugh (Bruce Greenwood). Pater is, to make things interesting, protective and controlling to almost psychopathic extremes (with more than a few Oedipal peccadilloes). He clearly disapproves of Jade's boyfriend. Eventually, he places a restraining order against David. Jade moves on, unhappily. Their love, however, is endless. David comes to Hugh's manse to claim the woman he loves. Dad knocks a candle over. The house is soon ablaze. David saves Hugh's life. Hugh comes to accept David. Jade is happy. David is happy. Their love, you see, is endless.
None of this has anything to do with Scott Spencer's novel - a book so romantic, it hurts, literally. The book slashes, scourges, stabs, cuts, saws away at the bone and greedily sucks out the marrow. There isn't a wildly romantic beat that doesn't alternately soar AND emit pain. The novel brilliantly fucks with everyone's notions of romantic love, but does so in a way that we begin to question if its portrait of aching love is really as aberrant as we've been told to believe. Instead we accept, nay - we EMBRACE - that THIS is what love, in fact, MUST be.
Romantic love in its purest state MUST be a sickness. If it doesn't hurt, and hurt BAD, how can there be joy?
Spencer's tale of obsession, familial dysfunction and love is so excruciating, so aching, so debilitating that we, as readers, are plunged into an emotional landscape that's scary beyond belief - mostly because it's so true, so familiar, so real and finally one of the few literary depictions of love to have the courage to proclaim that the purest, most intense form of love borders on the aberrant, the antisocial and yes, even (at least in the eyes of society), the criminal. Spencer's story begins with pain and destruction, with fire - one that rages literally so that we never forget what burns beneath the flesh.
The movie that resides in Spencer's book continues to remain untapped - dormant. Zeffirelli missed the boat, but Feste jumps aboard and just sinks it without even trying. Casting Gabriella Wilde and Alex Pettyfer is the height of stupidity. Both actors are so insipid that neither of them feels like they're in a movie based upon one of the greatest works of literary art in the history of American letters. Instead, they both come across as if they're hitting their marks on some TV soap opera. They're as bland as Wonder Bread and on that basis alone, there's very little reason to care a whit about these people as characters. There is one fine performance in the film and one only wishes that the stunning malevolence, yet odd humanity displayed by Bruce Greenwood could have saved itself for another and better screen adaptation. Alas, he's wasted here.
The best thing about Endless Love, the movie, is the freedom to just skip it.
Just skip it and read Spencer's book. It's so great you won't be able to put it down and after you've read it once, you'll want to go back to it again and again. God knows, I have. For 35 years it's been a book that I am always happy to revisit and experience at various junctures of my life and, most importantly, at ever shifting stages of my life experience. It grows with you and constantly offers its own form of endless love - the ability of art to reflect life and, in turn, give you the sort of nourishment you need to survive - to fill your head and heart with truth and beauty - neither of which are EVER on display in this utterly abhorrent, despicably repugnant and contemptible pile of trash.
See Endless Love at your peril. I can pretty much guarantee the screen will be full of buzzing flies, all seeking resting points to devour the stools deposited by its filmmakers.
"Endless Love" is playing theatrically via Universal Pictures.