Unrealistic Love

Laura Turner, Business Manager

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Alex Pettyfer, (Magic Mike, 2012) known for his upcoming role as David in the remake Endless Love (out this Valentine’s day) walked into the conference room in the basement of the Mall of America with all the charm expected of such a high-profile heartthrob. Pettyfer stars opposite Gabriella Wilde as David’s lover Jade.

I knew from talking to many of the girls prior to his entrance that few of them enjoyed the movie, but that was hardly evident as he walked around the circle, introducing himself to each of us. I think swoon would be an appropriate description of most of their reactions.

Pettyfer was exactly what our gaggle of teenage reporters/admirers seemed to want. Most of the reporters seemed too interested in his Valentine’s Day plans and his most embarrassing moments to ask about the film. The questions seemed like they were taken from Cosmo, or, more age-appropriately, Seventeen.

I admittedly wanted to dislike him after my disappointment with Endless Love, but he was quite funny. After he was met with blank stares when he said he looked up to Steve McQueen (Bullitt, 1968, The Cincinnati Kid, 1965), he grinned and explained, a “more manly Zac Efron.”

Though Pettyfer’s performance in Endless Love was hardly objectionable, no amount of good acting would make the movie enjoyable. “I was so worried about playing David one-note,” said Pettyfer of his leading character’s development. But, he said his director told him, “I want you to play hope, belief, love the entirety of the film.” David and his father, played by Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 1991, Striptease, 1996), were the two most believable characters.

Unfortunately, that means little when the characters are underdeveloped and unrealistic. One scene in the movie depicts David explaining to Jade’s father, played by Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, 2009, I, Robot 2004) all his dreams about love sustaining him instead of college. He does this on his first date with Jade, obviously alluding to her, though they have known each other for less than a week. I was not the only one in the theater holding back laughter.

It occurred to me while I watched the film that the melodramatic, cliché, Romeo and Juliet storyline could have been bearable had the characters not been scripted to create their own problems. The law of the movie seemed to be that to every action there was an over-the-top reaction to send the story spiraling toward more drama. The characters were so cliché that their interactions were hardly cohesive. Instead, each character seemed on his or her own trajectory to find the most ridiculous way to reach their objective.

Endless Love is quite obviously marketed toward teenage girls. With that in mind, I cannot help but push back against some of the messages the story is sending. Jade lacks depth in any sense of the word. Though she supposedly is intelligent and ambitious (her character is slated to attend Brown), Wilde seems mostly to smile, twirl, and kiss during her time on screen. David does his share of talking, but Jade barely speaks beyond expressing her deep desire to give up a prestigious internship for a boy she knew for maybe three days.

Jade’s father is made to be the bad guy for trying to prevent this. Though his character is manipulative and downright unbelievable, I do not think his motive was out of line. Who wants to see their successful daughter throw away a great opportunity for a boy whom she only met on the circumstances that he stole the car he was supposed to valet park? Or for a boy, period?

When I asked Pettyfer what messages he thought Endless Love sent to teenage girls, he responded that he hoped we all “Find someone that will treat you with respect.” A gentleman, he said. Someone chivalrous. While that is an admirable hope and I do think he misunderstood what I was asking (given the other questions with which he was faced), teenage girls should see a little more in their futures than a nice guy.

The circumstances of their love affair are also dangerously unrealistic. Jade and David finally meet (he, of course, pined for her from a distance for most of high school) when they steal a car together at Jade’s graduation celebration dinner. They fall madly in love only a few days later. During this time, they awkwardly flirt, dance, make out in a closet, sleep together under the nose of Jade’s protective father, and star in a montage of laughing/kissing clips to a mushy song of which I have never heard (and hope never to hear again).

Pettyfer explained that this adaption of the Endless Love story (the original released in 1981) was intended to be less “sensual” than the original. “[This version] is more about two people falling in love,” he said. But the little dialogue between them is only enough for Jade to explain the tragic death of her older brother. I found myself wondering many times during the movie what time they spent actually getting to know each other.

Their relationship is unrealistic to the point of confusion. I have grown up believing that love grows out of a strong relationship. The only relationship David and Jade seem to have is one of compatible dance partners and mutual attraction.

A companion of Pettyfer’s, possibly his manager, claimed Pettyfer’s biggest obstacle to be that he is “in love with love.” Pettyfer also mentioned that later in the interview. I am sure this is what the filmmakers expect of their teenage audience, but one would have to be almost blindingly gaga to fall for this love story.

 

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