Martin Hewitt and Brooke Shields in Endless Love
The song Endless Love was one of the biggest singles ever. The number one hit, written by Lionel Richie and performed by him and Diana Ross, is one of the most classic love songs of all time. It far out lasted the movie it was originally written as the theme song for.
Based on the novel by Scott Spencer, Endless Love tells the story of David, a 17 year old boy who has an obsessive love for his 15 year old girlfriend, Jade. The novel centered more on David, explaining his character as someone who gets invited by Jade's brother to their home, where he meets the family and falls in love with Jade. The movie starts out with Jade and David already in love.
Jade's parents are aging hippies who pride themselves on being forward thinking, open minded parents. Jade's mother even jokes at one point that she sounds like a mother. After a party at Jade's house, David and Jade have sex in the living room. Here is where the film gets weird. Jade's mother sees them having sex and smiles sweetly, as if caught up in the romance of it all. The teens begin having regular sex in her parent's home. At one point, Jade's father comes upstairs to see a completely naked David in his daughter's room. Jade walks out of the bathroom in a towel, says "Hi." to her father and then proceeds casually to her room.
Eventually her dad grows a pair of testicles and tells David to never see his daughter again. David is consumed by his passion for Jade and decides to burn her parents home down with the crazy idea of using it as an excuse to bust into the home and save everyone. The plan, for some odd reason, back fires and David ends up in a mental hospital. Things gets even worse. Someone dies and Jade's mother tries to have sex with David.
The novel was not so much a love story but one about a disassociated young man who finds a purpose in his love for Jade and his fascination with her quirky family. With Brooke Shields on board, who was red hot from Blue Lagoon, her role was amped up and the story suffered. What was Rebel Without a Cause with sex, became a Brooke Shields vehicle. Zeffirelli does not help either. He treats this young passionate affair as if it were Romeo and Juliet. He uses long takes of the young leads staring dreamily at each other while swelling music underscores the groan inducing scenes.
Endless Love is a relic of the early 80s. The soundtrack features Kiss and Blondie, as well as the title song. This was Martin Hewitt's film debut. It was the height of his career. He later married, had children, moved away from L.A. and started his own business. This was also the film debut of Tom Cruise. He is featured in one scene where he wears a pair of gay looking cut off jean shorts and has a voice that seems to be going through puberty.
Brooke Shields was as beautiful as any teen girl has ever been. She was the IT girl of the day. She was the reason anyone saw this movie in 1981, even though she was a blank slate of an actress. Her fame far exceeded her talent, just as this theme song far exceeded the movie.
Tom Cruise making his film debut in Endless Love.
This movie is so bad it seems endless. Eric's right, Zeffirelli thought he was remaking Romeo and Juliet. The lighting, swelling music and slow-motion love-making scenes are quite unintentionally hilarious. Brooke Shields has developed into a fine comedienne and a decent dramatic actress but when she made this movie she couldn't act her way out of a paper bag. At one point during one of the sex scenes the director squeezed her big toe, off camera, in order to provoke an orgasmic reaction. If you look closely you can see an expression of pain mixed with constipation flicker across the actresses' face.
The dialogue is also horrible. It's trite when not being confusing. At one point a young James Spader (playing Brooke Shields' older brother) says to Martin Hewitt's character, “Just because you're fucking my sister doesn't mean you're part of the family.” Later on Shirley Knight (Jade's mother), while trying to seduce her daughter's ex-boyfriend, tells him, “Of all the things I regret I did, the ones I didn't, are the ones I mourn the most.” Huh?
And only romantic teens experiencing the intense throes of first-love will relate to this exchange between Jade and her mother...
Jade Butterfield: “But he loved me. He loves me! No one will ever love me as much.”
Ann Butterfield: “Many people will love you. You'll see.”
Jade Butterfield: “But not like that. Not like David.”
As my brother said, the theme song has become the only endless success from this movie. Not only did the original version stay number 1 on the Billboard charts for 9 weeks but it was remade in the 1990s by Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey and made it all the way to number 2.
The movie does have 2 other things going for it. Tom Cruise's famous film debut in those cut-off shorts! (see photo) I remember when those types of shorts were commonly worn by men but today the only place you'll find a guy wearing them is a gay country and western bar. The stuntman who faked being hit by the car was also pretty great. He did an impressive flip head-over-heels through the air. It looks very real. (Sharp eyed movie buffs can also spot director Robert Altman playing a hotel manager.)
Still it takes more than a great theme song, the debut scene of a future megastar, and one memorable stunt to make a classic movie. Endless Love is far from that.
Photos © Copyright Universal Pictures (1981)