I can't remember if I ever saw the 1981 Endless Love. That was the one with Brooke Shields and the pretty boy stranded on an island? [Checks IMDb.] Ah, no, it's the other sensational teen sexfest of the era starring Brooke Shields. Which sounds nothing like the new movie of the same title, beyond the names of some of the characters. Why not just make a new movie and find a sappy new title for it?
Mysteries of its provenance aside, this new Endless Love is shockingly not terrible. Oh, for certain it's ridiculous, yet not entirely unaffecting. And it's melodramatic, but not unpleasantly so. It's also, for a teen romance of the moment, rather sweetly demure. The problems of rich white people may not amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, but for an inoffensive little movie, it says some things that need to be said more often by inoffensive little movies, like how dads do not own their teenaged daughters, and how teenaged daughters deserve to decide for themselves just what sort of lives they want. That shouldn't sound so radical, and yet it does.
This is so inoffensive that when David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer) says, "I watched her through all of high school," it doesn't even sound stalkerish. "Her" is Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde), and now that they've finally just graduated high school, he has a chance to make a move. Oh, it's not that he couldn't before, it's just that he's pretty shy, and she's been kind of a loner since her beloved older brother died. It's all been very tragic.
Wilde and Pettyfer look every inch the 20somethings they are. Perhaps that's why I didn't actually guffaw out loud when Jade proclaims to her father — who has dug up some "dirt" on David because he objects to the "teens'" relationship — "I don't care about his past." I mean, he's supposed to be 17, 18; his past is not yet in the past. But the contentious to-ing and fro-ing with Dad (Bruce Greenwood) is worth it for her brother's (Rhys Wakefield) choice summary of Jade's standing up to her father's unreasonable demand, that she break up with David: "Jade just became a woman," he says with pride.
It's just a little thing, really, but it looms large. Dad needs to learn that Jade's life is her own. Mom (Joely Richardson) is trying to get it through his thick overprotective skull, but it's hard going. And Jade needs to learn this as well. Endless Love really isn't much about a teenaged romance per se, but about a young woman taking control of her own destiny. She is the center of attention, she gets what she wants and, wonder of wonders, she isn't even punished for it! It's hard to imagine that her passion for David, and his for her, will endure forever, or even for long, but it's equally hard to imagine that she will suffer for it, either.
Look, I'm not saying this is an especially good movie. But if I had a teenaged daughter, I wouldn't be worried about her picking up any terrible ideas about a girl's or woman's place in the world from it, like I would with many other films aimed at teenaged girls. I might make her father watch it, too.