Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Endless Love (1981)

A little over a year ago, I bought the 1981 version of Endless Love. Apparently, it's no longer in print on DVD or Blu-Ray, since the TCM shop doesn't offer it. More interestingly, the DVD I purchased is listed at Amazon as being the 2014 remake, even though the box art shown at that link is the same as the DVD I picked up. (And I most definitely did get the 1981 version, having watched it.) It's apparently available from Amazon's streaming service, and I don't have anything else to blog about today, so I'm finally going to break with my policy and blog about something that's out of print and not coming up on TV.

Brooke Shields plays Jade Butterfield, 15-year-old daughter of reasonably well-to-do parents Ann (Shirley Knight) and Hugh (Don Murray). She's got a boyfriend in David Axelrod (Martin Hewitt), whose parents (Richard Kiley and Beatrice Straight) are even wealthier but who don't pay any attention to David. David is a high school senior and was introduced to the younger Jade by her older brother Keith (a young James Spader).

Jade and David are in love. Really, really, really in love. So much so that one night after a party at her house, he only pretends to leave, staying so that after everybody else goes to be, he can come back in and have sex with Jade! More controversially, Mrs. Butterfield gets up from bed and, from the stairway, happens to catch the two teens going at it! Now, you'd think she'd be shocked, but she seems to be of the attitude that isn't young love sweet. Of course, the way David has talked to Mrs. Butterfield, you wonder whether there's a bit of a Mrs. Robinson thing going on there.

David, for his part, seems to be a bit obsessed with Jade, almost trying to make himself a part of the family and spending more time with the Butterfields than his own parents. Eventually, this begins to bother Mr. Butterfield, who tells David that he just can't see Jade at all. Maybe that's a bit extreme, but considering the way they've been having sex, you can't really blame Mr. Butterfield. (The Axelrods seem oblivious to all this.)

As I said, David is obsessed with Jade, and not being able to see her only makes her more obsessed. One of his friends suggests doing something that might make him look like a hero in the Butterfields' eyes, and David takes it too literally. His shocking scheme backfires, and he winds up in a hospital for criminally insane teens, forbidden from having any contact with the Butterfields.

Now if that were all the story, it would be moderately interesting. But we're not even halfway through. David remains absolutely obsessed with Jade, and thinks only of appearing to be well enough to get out of the institution so that he can go search for Jade, even though doing so would violate the terms of his parole rather severely. And heaven only knows what would happen if Mr. Butterfield were to find out what David is up to.

Endless Love is a film that sharply divides opinions. Reading the reviews on IMDb, there are a lot of people who slam the movie, mostly on the grounds that neither Brooke Shields nor Martin Hewitt could act and were just there for their bodies. That's a fair criticism. And then there are the people who absolutely loved it.

As for me, I tend to fall closer to the second camp. I wouldn't say I absolutely loved it, but it is something that I found fascinating. The question of how much of David's feelings for Jade are sociopathic, and how much they're a reaction to feeling neglected at home, is something the movie never really discusses. The book on which it's based apparently is more clear on the matter (I haven't read the book), and also apparently makes the Butterfields out to be more sinister than the movie presents them. The only hint in the movie is where I compared Mrs. Butterfield to Mrs. Robinson; other than that the family just seems a bit bohemian. I could relate to David's feelings of seeing a family structure that was different to anything he had known, and wanting to be a part of such a familiy.

But after David winds up in the institution, Endless Love starts to go off the rails, as it goes way over the top through all sorts of plot holes. It results in all sorts of flaws, but also makes the movie extremely interesting.

Endless Love could run in TCM's 31 Days of Oscar thanks to the title song that Lionel Richie wrote getting a nomination. His rendition, a duet with Diana Ross, only shows up over the closing credits, but became a huge hit. It's sung one other time at the first party at the Butterfields' house.

If you can do the streaming video thing, you may want to drop a couple bucks on Endless Love.

1 comment:

Dell said...

I saw parts of this when I was younger than Brook was in the movie, so about '82 or '83. But, surprisingly, it didn't interest me enough to go back and finish it. Glad you enjoyed it, but I'm not sure I'll ever watch it.