Endless Love was a 1979 Scott Spencer novel with an ironic title. It featured a young couple in love and in trouble who wound up realizing that love was not always, in fact, endless. Then it was a 1981 movie about obsession and late homework and arson and icky family sex voyeurism. It starred Brooke Shields at the height of her teen fame, when hyper-horny late 70s pop culture and designer jeans marketing campaigns collided with the film industry, and together they all used her as a research subject for an experiment in just how far business could push the public into responding, cash-wise, to images of extremely sexualized underage girls. At the same moment it was a Lionel Richie/Diana Ross love duet that celebrated a kind of love not actually depicted in the film, a song that dwarfed its accompanying movie in popularity. It also dwarfed all other songs that had the misfortune to be on the radio at the same time.
Now it’s a movie again, one seemingly based on the song’s lyrics and not the problem-filled original book or film adaptation. Unlike those thorny objects, the song's lyrics leave no room for doubt or wavering or half-feels. They build and build as Ross and Richie one-up each other in a contest of harmonizing, more or less throwing each other into the air like a pair of acrobatic figure skaters who know they can never fall and crash. It’s sonic religious mania, except it’s about losing your secular virginity on a bed made of marshmallows. You’d never know it was the theme song to a movie where the boyfriend deliberately sets the girlfriend’s house on fire just so he can fake-rescue her.
This idiot-child of a remake is committed to a vision of non-awkward adolescent romance and perfect white skin and wavy hairstyles. It corrects all that old creepy stuff and focuses squarely on pretty things behaving prettily. Working-class David (Alex Pettyfer) and rich princess Jade (Gabriella Wilde), young lovers who meet at high school graduation and almost immediately begin making out, spend quite a bit of time stealing away for tasteful, PG-13 humps with one another when they aren’t frolicking at teen parties that seem to center around soft drinks and games involving impromptu dance choreography. It’s a way to spend a summer.
David’s mechanic father (Robert Patrick) is chill about the arrangement; so is Jade’s mother (Joely Richardson), a wet-eyed cheerleader for teen fornication who rarely misses an opportunity to announce how “inspired” she is by their love – they’ve been a couple for all of two weeks at this point – before writing the world’s least effective college recommendation letter on David’s behalf. It’s an official endorsement that focuses squarely on how “full of light” he is and predicated on the somewhat unquantifiable observation that, by taking her daughter’s virginity, David has transformed their entire family into a Ronald McDonald House of Sexual Healing. Jade’s doctor dad (Bruce Greenwood), meanwhile, ain’t having it. He’s still grieving the loss of the family’s young son to cancer and has no intention of letting his other kids grow into leave-the-house-and-get-laid adulthood. He does what he can to separate the kids, which leads to a lot of sneaking around, slammed doors and loud declarations about how they will fight, FIGHT, FIGHT FOR LOVE. Disappointment spoiler: very little actual fighting takes place.
And then… well, love, oh love, of course. Grown-ups are compromised vessels. Life happened to them and they failed. But the kids know the truth. Also, the kids buy more movie tickets. And research has shown that those consumers are not feeling anything but a clean, smooth ride to pleasure, much less anything close to an unhappy ending or cold reality-water splashed in their collective mug. It’s Valentine’s Day, jerks, be more like that song we all enjoy.