A recent remake of ENDLESS LOVE had me nostalgic for my younger days when I saw the original version in theaters and swooned with delight over the acting eyebrows of Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt. While there has never been an official US dvd release of the film, yours truly has her ways, and I trundled into my secret stash to find the old 1981 chestnut with the promise to Jim that getting my way was the only way that he would have his.
Filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli, hoping to reignite his lukewarm career with a swoony, romantic teen tragedy (aping his earlier smash Romeo and Juliet) only pulled off the swoony part with this misguided, hooty attempt to launch ‘70s prepubescent pinup Shields into adult stardom. Saddled with Brooke Shields and newcomer Martin Hewitt - two dreamy-looking dead weights who’d make better bookends than film stars - Zeffirelli tries, hilariously, to divert our attention from their inability to act by encouraging the film’s other players to overact up a storm. "Too much self-dramatizing around here!" snaps Beatrice Straight as if (1) she’d just come from watching the rushes, and (2) she weren’t guilty as sin herself.
The movie, a yarn about star-crossed Chicago teens who go mad when torn apart (already laughably preposterous when Splendor in the Grass was filmed twenty years earlier), throws together the son of two politically aware do-gooders with the daughter of two "free-spirits." whose home "is the joke of the neighborhood - into drugs, into everything - a relic of the ‘60s."
Earth mama Shirley Knight likes that Hewitt is spending the nights in fifteen-year-old Shields’ bedroom; she asks hippy hubby Don Murray, "Aren’t you happy that someone has the courage to wake up Sleeping Beauty?" (Shields looks to us like she’s been sleepwalking from beginning to end.) Knight explains, "He hides in the house till they think we’re asleep and he scuttles away at dawn. They’re rather sweet - like bats."
Bats is the word, all right, for the sequence where Zeffirelli whips up a veritable operatic quartet of Bad Acting: Murray screams at Shields, "I don’t want him in your room!" Shields wails, "You’re just jealous!" Knight shrieks at Murray, "You’re a hell of a doctor - she’s hysterical!" and Shields’ brother James Spader shouts "There’s something wrong with that guy!" - all at the same time.
Forbidden to see Shields (or even her nude body double), Hewitt goes off the deep end, takes the advice of arson enthusiast Tom Cruise, and sets fire to Shields’ house - taking the notion of "carrying a torch’ a tad far. Hewitt’s sent to a psychiatric hospital (where he has "visions" of Shields in earlier scenes) and, as is so often the case when a teen torches a house, the marriages of both families fall apart.
"Get me out of here!" Hewitt rages to his folks - a sentiment you’ll share before the movie’s over - so (get this) they do, and Hewitt hotfoots it to Manhattan, where he gets vamped by the divorced Knight, chased by Murray (who mercifully for us, is hit by a taxi and killed), and reunited with Shields, who hasn’t learned one single thing about acting in all the years they’ve been apart. What any of this has to do with love is anybody’s guess, but it’s certainly endless.
Needless to say, husband Jim did get lucky that evening - it was the least I could do.