David (Alex Pettyfer) is a recent high school graduate with few thoughts about his future. Despite excellent SAT scores, he's perfectly happy to take over the family auto repair shop when his father (Robert Patrick) retires. Since the tenth grade, he's had his eye on the quiet girl, Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde), who comes from a rich family that was rocked when Jade's brother succumbed to cancer. He's never found the right moment to introduce himself, but all that changes overnight when he meets her at a posh country club, helps to organize a fairly normal teen party at her house, and shares a first kiss with her outside, away from the watchful eye of her father, Hugh (Greenwood). At his urging, Jade has spent her entire life focused on getting into a medical school so she can become a doctor like him, but once she and David meet, they're inseparable, caught up in the exhilarating experience of first love. Jade's transformation and dwindling interest in her father's chosen path for her creates tension between himself and David, tension that rises to a boil when David learns more about Hugh than he would like.
Most of the film's cliches are built into the premise. The film's opening narration is pure teen girl fantasy: the beautiful but shy high school graduate with a handsome admirer just waiting to swoop in and change everything right before the responsibilities of college and real life set in. It could feel hacky, but Feste invests the trope with emotional authenticity, capturing the longing angst of teen romance. It may be a cliche, but Feste knows why and how it resonates. Other elements are handled less effectively: David's friend Mace (Dayo Okeniyi) offers lame "ice queen" and class-based reasons Jade will never show an interest in him despite knowing nothing about her, and the character of Jenny (Emma Rigby), an empty stereotype of an ex-girlfriend who continues to insert herself in David's life out of petty jealousy, plays more like a plot device than a person. Later, a party scene pushes the limits of believability in its picturesque sweetness, with couples choreographing elaborate dance routines.
Once David and Jade are officially a couple, however, the film settles into a surprisingly balanced conflict between David and Hugh that has little to do with David being the "bad boy" dating his daughter (although he uses it as an excuse) and more to do with Hugh's frustrations in his own marriage. Although he and his wife Anne (Joely Richardson) can put on a nice dinner for friends and family, their perspectives have already drifted apart. Anne believes Jade needs to have love, to experience happiness and heartbreak, and she is more than receptive to David and his idealism, even writing a letter of recommendation so that he can make good on his SAT scores. Hugh is frustrated not just by the control he loses over Jade with David around, but by the lack of control he feels in his own relationship. Greenwood is perfect casting, easily able to go from fatherly encouragement to cold intimidation on the turn of a dime, and Richardson is no slouch either. Feste not only provides her with character beats that make Anne feel three-dimensional, but agency to call Hugh out on his short-sightedness. Pettyfer and Wilde are also charming in the leads, with Pettyfer projecting some personality beyond his good looks, and Wilde investing the "audience surrogate" role with dramatic energy, putting choice behind plot developments where many would have disappeared into the wallpaper. Even Patrick gets some strong dramatic moments, such as a scene with Greenwood that other similar movies probably wouldn't have bothered with, choosing solely to focus on romance.
As the film ramps up into theatrics, the chances of the film jumping the rails keeps increasing, but Feste manages the fireworks nicely, even subverting a few cliches to make up for the ones that made it in (a moment with Jenny is waved away in a second through -- gasp! -- characters communicating!). Feste's direction isn't flashy, but the film is generally handsomely photographed, offering a little more visual nuance than the average brightly-lit, atmosphere-free budget studio pictures. Spencer was very unhappy with the adaptation of his book, both in 1981 and even more so in 2014. As I'm unfamiliar with both the novel and the previous film, I'm not at liberty to talk about fidelity to the source material, but regardless of its qualities as an adaptation, Endless Love has some surprisingly intelligent qualities as a movie, offering the scope of a story that directly involves but also goes beyond its two young, lovestruck protagonists. It pitches a notion of enduring, endless love that may be more of a romantic fairy tale, but the dramatic core of the film is honest, playing fair with its characters and story.
The Video and Audio
Audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which bursts with the vibrant electronic energy of modern pop music, and with some surprisingly energetic sequences that include some crowded parties, revving car engines, and a major fire sequence, which howls and bellows. Dialogue is rich with environmental details that feel natural and balanced. French and Spanish DTS 5.1, a Descriptive Video Dolby Digital 2.0 track, English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and French and Spanish subtitles are all provided.
The disc rounds out with a fairly generic making-of featurette (17:59) that offers the usual round of cast and crew talking heads from the set, mixed in with basic B-roll and clips from the finished film. Take a drink every time someone says "first love" and you'll be dead before the featurette is over.
Random trailers download from the internet when the disc is placed in the player. No theatrical trailer for Endless Love is included.