Review: ‘Endless Love,’ starring Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde

I think Alex Pettyfer is the worst, and Endless Love doesn’t do anything to dissuade me of that notion. Sure, he’s a slab of muscular manmeat. But he’s also a horrendously inexpressive actor, the kind of guy for whom a half-smile and an eyebrow raise look like work. As the male lead you’re supposed to adore and root for in Endless Love, he simply isn’t successful—and he’s in shared company, since the rest of the movie is frustratingly mediocre, too.

The premise is this: working-class guy David (Pettyfer) has been interested in beautiful rich girl Jade (Gabriella Wilde) for years, but she’s been a social outcast since her older brother’s death from cancer two years previously. It’s only on their graduation day that David finally works up the nerve to talk to her, earning an invitation to her graduation party. He clearly doesn’t belong there—and Jade’s doctor father Hugh (Bruce Greenwood) makes that abundantly, cartoonishly obvious. So naturally, the response from David and Jade is to go make out in the dark. Duh!

With that begins the Abercrombie-advertisement portion of Endless Love, with Jade and David spending all their free time together—kissing while swimming, kissing while driving, kissing while everything—and Hugh angrily glaring and harrumphing about how Jade might be messing up her future of college and medical school with this relationship. Jade has never stuck up to Hugh before, and their family has been so broken after her brother’s death, that this relationship with David seems like a serious transgression. But, as people in the film keep parroting over and over again, “You have to fight for love!” Yeah, OK, we get it.

Eventually the film devolves into Hugh pulling crazy underhanded move after crazy underhanded move to get Jade and David to break up, and then a variety of absurd plot twists to display the “urgency” here: a car crash, a fire, a run through an airport, increasingly repetitive declarations of love. But I wrote “urgency” back there because the film never really succeeds in raising the stakes, in making the conflict here feel realized. The Notebook had the problem of Ryan Gosling’s character going to war, as so many Nicholas Sparks novels and film adaptations do, and last year’s The Vow had Rachel McAdams’s character trying to regain her memory. But in Endless Love, the issue is … Jade’s father will be mad at her? OK, well, get over it.

Mundaneness of the story aside, there’s also the issue of Pettyfer and Wilde together; sure, they’re both pretty, but they don’t have any notable zing as a couple. Lots of kissing does not necessarily sexiness make. And in comparison with the ‘80s version of Endless Love, which had teenagers so crazily in love with each other that they left arson and homicide in their wake, this 2014 version feels especially toothless. A girl only stands up to her domineering father because of her boyfriend … and that’s it? Oh, OK. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Don’t spend it watching Endless Love.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5 Guttenbergs