It’s another slow week for home video, as the only major theatrical release moving to the small screen is a love story featuring Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde.
2½ stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief partial nudity, some language and teen partying
Available on: Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and on demand
With only a handful of notable exceptions, movie romances – even the good ones – are sappy. In part, that’s because the genre forces filmmakers to address one of the deepest and most complex human emotions in the span of minutes. Naturally, this necessitates short cuts, many of which lead to extreme melodrama and sentimentality. Still, there is something compelling about the romance genre even when it fails to capture reality.
Like most of its peers, “Endless Love” has problems. The film is a remake of the like-titled, 1981 movie by Franco Zeffirelli, and its derivative nature is part of the trouble. The plot of the film relies almost entirely on unlikely actions from the leads, the melodrama is slathered on thick and several key characters come off as lightweight, comic book sketches. Still, I liked it.
“Endless Love” is not a great film. In fact, one could successfully argue that it’s really bad. But there is something winning about co-writer and director Shana Feste’s presentation.
The action centers on David (Alex Pettyfer), a popular pretty boy who has long dreamed of getting to know his beautiful high school classmate, Jade (Gabriella Wilde). Although Jade looks like a model and has brains to boot, she never connected with her classmates. Mainly, this is because her older brother, Chris, died of cancer, forcing her entire family into mourning. Rather than participate in typical high school shenanigans, Jade descended into books, becoming a stellar student and earning admission to a prestigious medical school.
Despite the bright future, Jade realizes she is missing something, and a chance run in with David shows her exactly what that is. David is not only incredibly good looking (it always works that way in the movies), he is charming, thoughtful and impulsive. In fact, he’s almost too good to be true. That does not, however, prevent Jade’s overprotective father, Hugh (Bruce Greenwood), from disapproving of the blossoming romance.
Hugh has already lost one child, and he makes it clear that he isn’t going to allow Jade to stray down the wrong path. So, like Romeo and Juliet, Jade and David become star-crossed lovers who must overcome considerable obstacles just to spend time together.
This plot – or something similar – is found in numerous films, meaning there’s nothing novel in the story. This is a frustration, but it isn’t enough to derail the project. Feste’s direction is earnest, and her actors deliver likable, charismatic performances.
Neither Wilde nor Pettyfer are huge stars, but they have great onscreen chemistry. When they kiss, audiences can feel the passion, and when they’re in pain, it’s easy to empathize. Feste moves the action rapidly, making sure viewers don’t have time to meditate on the unrealistic things the characters say and do. She also works nice supporting performances into the framework. Although Jade’s father is presented as more of a character sketch than a living, breathing human, it is always nice to see Greenwood on screen. Also, Robert Patrick gives a strong reading of David’s father, and Joely Richardson is solid as Jade’s mother.
None of this makes the story better, but it does make it entertaining, and sometimes that’s enough.
Blu-ray and DVD extras include a making-of feature.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons”: Writer-director Stephen Chow (“Kung Fu Hustle”) delivers a comic adaptation of the Chinese literary classic “Journey to the West.” The action centers on a young demon hunter who, along with his disciples, embarks on a challenging expedition of self-sacrifice.
“Red River”: This impressive Criterion Collection release gives director Howard Hawks’ first Western the royal treatment. The 1948 drama features John Wayne as a hard-nosed rancher who seeks revenge after his adopted son (Montgomery Clift) betrays him on a cattle drive. Walter Brennan and Harry Carey also star. The Criterion release includes DVD and Blu-ray versions of the film, plus an impressive array of extra features. Also included is a book containing Borden Chase’s “Blazing Guns on the Chisolm Trail,” the serialized Saturday Evening Post story that inspired the film.
“The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou”: Freshly restored, Criterion Collection release of writer-director Wes Anderson’s amusing, 2004 film about a famous oceanographer (Bill Murray) who mounts an expedition to hunt the shark that supposedly killed his partner. The impressive supporting cast includes Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum and Michael Gambon.
“Hitler and the Nazis – Reign of Terror – Hitler’s Pursuit of Global Domination”: This documentary runs nearly four hours in length, and it details Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany as well as the policies he instituted during his reign.
“The Universe” – Season 7: Seven episodes of the History Channel series that explores our natural world. Among other things, this collection considers the mysteries of the Star of Bethlehem, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the purpose of Stonehenge.
“Sleepaway Camp” – Collector’s Edition: This Blu-ray-DVD combo gives new life to writer-director Robert Hiltzik’s 1983 horror film about a young woman (Felissa Rose) who, after her family is killed in a boating accident, goes away to summer camp. Her vacation turns into a nightmare when residents start dying one by one.
– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. For more of his work visit http://www.ForrestHartman.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.