Release Date: July 17, 1981
Runtime: 116 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director: Franco Zeffirelli
Cast: Brooke Shields; Martin Hewitt; Shirley Knight; Don Murray; James Spader; Richard Kiley; Beatrice Straight
Watching this movie, I had an overwhelming feeling of “I get it.” Let me explain. I get how this movie could have been seen as a good career move for Brooke Shields. It was based on a phenomenally popular (at the time) young adult novel, it was a classy production all around with a well-respected director (Franco Zeffirelli), and was mounted as a serious drama about young, obsessive love. No subtle winks to the audience, no flagrant comic relief characters, no cheesy filmmaking tactics engineered to appeal to the short attention spans of pre-teens. In its day, this movie was probably much like what the “Twilight” movies are to today’s pre-teen audiences. Coupled with “The Blue Lagoon” having been released a year earlier, I get how Brooke Shields was the poster child for angsty adolescent girls everywhere.
The problem with this movie is that it just isn’t very good; it’s misguided. It has its moments, a standout occurring during one of Brooke’s parent’s hilariously inappropriate parties where one of the attendees sings the title ballad (you’ve heard it…it’s sung by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross and is played AD NAUSEAM throughout the film). During this sequence, the camera follows Brooke as she gets up from her father’s lap (not a girl) and slowly makes her way to her waiting boyfriend (Martin Hewitt) at the top of the stairs (not yet a woman…get it?). It’s a nice piece of direction. However, what follows is a sex scene, meant to be tender, that is unusually explicit given the target audience for the film. This scene, while necessary, I suppose, did not need to be as revealing as it was, especially seeing as how Brooke was still underage at the time and her character was supposed to be 15! The scene takes you out of the moment so that all you’re thinking is “Such a young girl in a sex scene!”
As the movie progresses, it gets more and more absurd. I mean, the boyfriend (his name in the movie is David, but whatever) sets Brooke’s (her character’s name is Jade) family home on fire, with them in it! He turns into a total, bona fide sociopath. At least he ends up doing time in a psychiatric hospital and the movie doesn’t allow him to just disappear with no consequence. Yet, a few years later, he tracks down Brooke’s mother in New York City and she puts the moves on him! LADY, MOTHERFUCKER BURNED DOWN YOUR HOUSE AND STALKED YOUR DAUGHTER! CALL THE FRIGGIN’ POLICE!! I’m all for movies about obsessive love, but there comes a point where a movie loses all grounding in reality and just goes for the sensational. That’s the case here. It starts off OK, then careens down the path to ridiculousness and never recovers.
Brooke Shields was most likely cast since she was the “It” girl of the moment. I understand that from a box office perspective, but she really wasn’t very good. To be fair, neither was the movie. But she can pout with the best of ‘em. Martin Hewitt, as her psycho boyfriend, was appropriately handsome and charming and acted about as well as any young actor would have in the same role. This is one of those movies where it’s fun to point out some famous actors of today who were making their debuts here: Tom Cruise, James Spader, Jami Gertz, Ian Ziering.
Look, I have not read the book, but from what I understand, it was very well regarded; however the movie took substantial liberties. Whatever the case, judged on its own terms, the movie version of “Endless Love” comes up as more like “Endless Eyerolling.”