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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 17, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Accent

Review: Drama short on believable chemistry

"Endless Love"

Directed by Shana Feste

The shiny red sports car zooms down the back roads, engine purring with excitement. A fair-haired girl throws her head back with laughter, casting cautious glances at the driver who responds with a slow, flirty grin. Standing on the backseat of the borrowed vehicle, his friend howls triumphantly.

In director Shana Feste’s adaptation of the 1981 film of the same name, “Endless Love,” David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer) and Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) spark a summer fling after their high school graduation. Pegged as an “ice queen” because of her reclusive nature following her eldest brother’s death, the privileged Jade nonetheless captures the enamored attention of David, a handsome teen from a broken home. However, Jade’s overprotective father, Hugh Butterfield (Bruce Greenwood), tries to tear their relationship apart, citing David’s tumultuous past in order to fuel his own bias against his daughter’s boyfriend.

Greenwood’s performance as the stiff, maddened Hugh is commendable. The “golden boy” of the family, Hugh is deeply wounded by his first son’s death and seeks to cope by upholding impeccably high standards for the impressionable Jade. However, Jade and David’s romance poses a threat to Hugh’s fatherly authority, one that he asserts with terrible ruthlessness. His manipulative taunting and smooth-talking lies are delivered with convincing malice, rightfully earning his place as the film’s antagonist. In one scene, Hugh digs up David’s past, bullying him into taking violent action.

Also notable is Rhys Wakefield’s performance as Jade’s second brother, the fun-loving Keith. His irresistible charm and bravado sporadically pull his character’s grief to the surface, gleaning sympathy and affection from the audience, which will anticipate his on-screen appearances.

In contrast, Pettyfer’s and Wilde’s performances seem to dull in the shadow of their supporting cast. Their chemistry is a little awkward, believable in brief moments, but otherwise seemingly staged. From first encounter, David’s infatuation with Jade seems unfounded, with shallow motivation for the turbulent relationship that follows. David and Jade go through the motions of romance in a montage sequence of a series of dates. While somewhat endearing to witness, the underlying tension of Jane and David’s situation is unfelt, despite their relationship’s constantly approaching expiration date. While Pettyfer effectively portrays the misunderstood youth, his character lacks conviction in many scenes. He still appears too aware of his acting, brooding without disclosing any of the real vulnerability needed to deliver a truly convincing performance.

Similarly, Wilde’s character deserves more development. Her fierce loyalty toward David seems propelled only by petty teenage rebellion, an unappealing motive for the “endless love” the pair seemingly has for each other. Jade is an enigma, naive one moment and fearless the next, a combination that is confusing for her characterization. Wilde’s somewhat flippant portrayal of Jade garners only mild sympathy for the supposed heroine of the story.

The date-night movie succeeds in prompting spontaneous laughter, offering lighthearted comedy after some of the film’s more dramatic scenes. David’s friend Mace (Dayo Okeniyi), though annoyingly self-serving, is an entertainingly goofy teen. Okeniyi’s sporadic one liners and fun-loving antics will amuse audiences despite the film’s generally serious tone. A soundtrack including songs from Tegan and Sara, In the Valley Below and Echosmith helps create the nostalgic, suddenly-in-love atmosphere of David and Jade’s exhilarating affair.

Despite these small successes, “Endless Love” remains forgettable as a typical teen romance movie with less consequence than the original.