Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
Endless Love has awakened something in me. Not a long dormant passion for an introverted high school classmate, or a sudden desire to break into the zoo after dark. A question about movies — more accurately, about movie criticism. The same question you would ask yourself if you fell drowsy in the middle of Citizen Kane, or welled up during the emotional climax of Just Friends. The question I ask myself now, as I recount the 103 straight minutes of asphyxiating laughter that I endured during a screening of Shana Feste’s would-be romantic drama: What makes a good movie?
We assign deference to some films, disgust to others — a lucky few of us make a living this way. But what, precisely, are we reviewing? A film’s mission or its execution? The product onscreen or the experience of watching it? All factors come into play when considering whether or not a movie “works.” But on rare occasions you’ll get a film that offers no common ground in its meeting of these standards. You’ll get Endless Love, which strives for dramatic sincerity, winds up with underwritten idiocy, and provokes in its viewers an unrestrained, absurdist revelry — the kind of joy you’d otherwise be forced to seek in a third viewing of The Lego Movie. Laughter at the ill-conceived antics and befuddling dialectical patterns of our central teen couple — a Mars native Gabrielle Wilde and her gaping mouthed beau Alex Pettyfer. Elated bemusement at the younger generation’s propensity for chaotic disrobing and didactically organized dance parties. Unprecedented ecstasy at the Mafia movie intimidation tactics of an overprotective dad (Bruce Greenwood) and the brain-dead disregard of a supportive one (Robert Patrick). As a comedy, Endless Love is unstoppable.
I can only hypothesize that it was not Feste’s intention to roll us in the aisles. I have no cold proof that her resolution in paving every nook in her Georgia-set remake with another farcical stone — Wilde’s instantaneous evolution from wordless ingénue to sexually aggressive spirit walker, Patrick’s loving caution-to-the-wind attitude regarding any situation that has to do with a girl, Rhys Wakefield’s “black sheep” character forming an odd amalgamation of Pauly Shore and Charlie St. Cloud — was not one of Wolf of Wall Street-like satire, or reappropriation in the vein of Spring Breakers. Here are two movies that earned scorn from viewers who read them literally, and in turn vehement defense from those who peered through the exaltation of cocaine and firearms into the filmmakers’ ironic intentions.
Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
To the latter community, one to which I subscribe, I ask: if we’re readily willing to dive deeper for Martin Scorsese and Harmony Korine, shouldn’t we grant Feste this benefit? If we’d defend the authenticity of the splendor we recognized in their movies, why am I inclined to write off the very same when present in this year’s Valentine’s Day cannonball? Why do I eagerly laud the merit in Leonardo DiCaprio directing Quaalude-charged tribal chants and relinquishing subhuman treatment upon anyone short a Y-chromosome, while instinctively shafting the invaluable merriment in Pettyfer’s goofily deliberate declaration that he likes to read into the category of happy accident?
But an even more precise question (one I was challenged to entertain by a friend and film critic far wiser than I am), and this time to the former community: does it matter? Did it matter to all those offended by gunplay and intrusive nudity that Korine set out to demonize youth culture and its omnipresent hedonism? Did considering his intentions make the endgame any less a visceral nightmare? If not, does it matter if Feste poured her soul into the machination of a timeless love story, only to produce a riotous cinematic episode that treads genre parody as expertly as anything from the golden age of the Zucker brothers? Does it matter that she didn’t intend for Wilde and Pettyfer’s sex scene to come off as super-hoke, for every mention of cancer to feel like soap opera send-up, or for Robert Patrick’s vindication of his son’s passion for menagerie trespassing to elicit the biggest laugh of a movie yet in 2014?
So long as I consider the power of cinema, I’ll never be sure if it matters. I’ll never be sure of the answers to any of these questions. But no matter where I find myself standing on this issue down the line, I had far too much fun at Endless Love — and entertained far too many questions on the nature of cinema and the way we react to it — to call it a movie that people shouldn’t see.
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Apples and oranges. Day and night. Prostitutes and Amish people (as Yahoo answers tells me in a search for “opposite things”). Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez, our final two finishers on American Idol’s 11th season couldn’t be more different if they were named Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman. One is a low-key growler with a penchant for pissing off famous fashion designers, while the other is a strong-voiced troubadour with a penchant for making you feel like you’ve broken a law just noticing her wardrobe.
The main problem with our Top 2? They have no problems. Here, at the end of our Idol road, are two polar-opposite singers so on top of their games, they might as well be battling Bowser. Of course, this makes it quite difficult for us obsessed fans, who are begging for someone to irrationally root against in the finale. But we no longer have an uneven Hollie. We no longer have the favorite son Joshua. And we no longer have terrible cowboy guy.
Instead, we’re left with two extremely likeable, extremely talented singers. And, for the first time since the Season 8 finale between Kris Allen and Adam Lambert, it’s difficult to side with one or the other. Not that it’s necessary — after all, at this point, a Phillip win is about as predictable as my projectile vomit hearing an Armageddon song on Idol.
Not only was the crowd and history on his side — with the exception of the Illinois-based Lee DeWyze, a male from south of the Mason-Dixon line has won every year since Season 6 — but poor Jessica was saddled with the atrocious original single “Change Nothing,” a name that invites far too many headline-worthy puns. (Jessica, change everything, please!) Holy “No Boundaries,” was that a clunker or what? We’re talking about a contestant who could sing the phonebook, the newspaper, or Fifty Shades of Grey — yet “Change Nothing” managed to change Jessica into a floundering singer with an inability to nail any register. True, it wasn’t as bad as “No Boundaries,” but even hangnails, paper cuts, and James Blunt aren’t as bad as “No Boundaries.”
Jennifer Lopez was right — during her one moment of usefulness last night — that Jessica had been given the wrong song to suit her R&B-worthy voice. (“You have to be able to say to someone, this is not me,” the bootylicious one told Jessica, lending advice that all of Idol’s pigeonholed former contestants would have been well-served to hear.) Instead, Simon Fuller was wise in his attempt to transform Jessica into a Whitney Houston incarnate with “I Have Nothing,” the third Houston song Jessica has sung in the past four months. That said, as much as Jessica boasts the powerhouse vocals of the late legend, Idol fans expect more than a note-for-note cover of a song more suited for the days of Season 4. Or should I say almost every other Idol season ever? After all, the song has been performed by the following: Trenyce in Season 2, Leah LaBelle and Jennifer Hudson in Season 3, Vonzell Solomon in Season 4, Katharine McPhee in Season 5, LaKisha Jones in Season 6, and Shannon Magrane earlier this Season 11. Idol needs to retire this song three years ago like it’s Leno.
Jessica’s smartest move of the evening was choosing “The Prayer” as her personal choice, reviving a pre-semifinals power ballad that was all but wiped from our memory following her “I Will Always Love You” cover during Top 13. The repeated finale vocal has always been an Idol pet peeve of mine — don’t the producers know that super-fans can recall every twitch and vocal trick of a previous performance, thanks to the wonders of YouTube and workplace procrastination? Still, only David Cook in Season 7 has been able to deviate from the directive, performing new cover “The World I Know” while David Archuleta rehashed “Imagine.” And Cook was better off for it — not only was “The World I Know” one of the most touching and perfect performances of all-time on Idol, but the originality helped bag him the win. (Let's go back to those simpler times with simpler rules, Idol, shall we?) But while our contestants may no longer be given the choice, Jessica did right by allowing us to remember what we had nearly forgotten. And it would have been a shame if we had — Jessica’s “The Prayer” blew my mind harder than the concept of Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo actually being a real-life, bona fide couple. (The American Idol fan fiction file in my brain just imploded. Nikko Smith and Julia DeMato, you better be next.)
NEXT: At home with "Home."Sadly for Jessica, she still doesn’t have a prayer come Wednesday evening. Mostly because Phillip, equipped with a pimp slot, actually delivered an original performance that was radio-ready in our contemporary music environment. Randy was right to say “Home” sounded like a Mumford & Sons hit. The friends I watched the penultimate episode with were right to say it sounded like a Dave Matthews hit. And I felt Phillip was right to throw in a little “Dust in the Wind”-esque inspiration for extra flavor. In other words, the song sounded right. It sounded appropriate. It sounded Phillip, which is typically something we cannot say about any schmaltzy victory single. You’re my boy, Phillip!
Now, following round 2, I wasn’t so sure of Phillip’s victory — “Movin’ Out” was too recent in my memory for me to be really moved, and the only part of the slowed- and stripped-down “Stand By Me,” Simon Fuller’s choice, was the sweet lick at the end of the song. (That was a gift to you Philophiles: Phillip and “sweet lick” in the same sentence. Sweet dreams.) But following his star-making turn during last week’s “We’ve Got Tonight” and “Beggin’” — and Jessica’s underwhelming “My All” and “I’ll Be There” — it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Phillip’s fans don’t beg the AT&T gods for a win tomorrow night. Hell, the dude doesn’t even have to speak actual words anymore to win over fans — just see his nonsensical response to Ryan Seacrest’s “Phillip, how do you feel?” The guy’s like a still-talented Adam Sandler — people will love everything he does, no matter the effort involved. Plus, Rob Schneider, as Randy’s lapel pin!
Still, does Jessica deserve to win just for having to sing “Change Nothing”? Do you hate the finale performance repetition like I do? Did you go to YouTube to watch “The World I Know” halfway through reading this? (I did.) Does Steven Tyler belong on The Bachelorette, what with his egg talk? What over-eager intern has been tasked with creating the dramatic opening numbers each Wednesday? Was Jason Derulo’s new America-collaborated song as unlistenable as it was “Undefeated”? And is seeing Derulo’s girlfriend, Jordin Sparks, making you wish Idol would release contestant dolls so you can make them all date other Idol figures? Am I too obsessed? Don’t answer that.
Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard
[Image Credit: FOX]
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Looks like Demi Moore won't be joining the cast of Lovelace after all. After being rushed to the hospital late last night due to exhaustion, the actress has decided to pull out of the project entirely in order to take some time to recuperate from all her pent-up stress. Moore's rep confirmed the news to Deadline last night, along with a statement, saying, "Because of the stresses in her life right now, Demi has chosen to seek professional assistance to treat her exhaustion and improve her overall health. She looks forward to getting well and is grateful for the support of her family and friends." Indeed it's been quite the stressful time for the Hollywood star, who announced her separation from husband Ashton Kutcher in November amid rumors of his recent infidelity with 22-year-old Sara Leal. I'd say that would be enough to stress anyone out. We hope Moore recovers quickly and gets the relaxation she needs. - Deadline
Halle Berry has gone to court to strip her ex-husband, Gabriel Aubry, from his custody rights of their daughter, Nahla, because she claims he got abusive with their nanny. According to Radar Online, Aubry allegedly pushed the nanny in the middle of an argument they were having, which caused her to fall while holding the little girl. Now, there are two sides to every story, but this sounds pretty bad no matter how you spin it. And since Berry wants to make sure something like this never happens again, I say good for her. - Radar
After suffering a publicity nosedive in light of her 72 day marriage to Kris Humphries, Kim Kardashian is actually trying to contribute something good to the world for a change. The reality star recently donated the $50,000 she raised during a September 2011 fundraiser to The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention service for LGBTQ teens. Kim wrote on her blog about the event: "The firm lost more than 600 employees in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 and on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, they donated all revenues from their trades to charities around the world. I was honored to take part!" Granted, she hasn't completely redeemed herself in our eyes, but it's a decent start. This is the kind of publicity that is actually worth writing about. - US
Hugh Jackman's wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, is sick and tired of people thinking her husband is gay, and with how everyone seems to have issues with her fuller figure. Furness expressed to Page Six that she's frequently "pummeled" by people trying to get closer to her husband, and said fans often make her feel like "chopped liver" because they pay so much attention to Jackman and not very much to her. On their relationship, she said "Hugh is much more mature than me, so we balance each other out. And heaven forbid I have a human experience and carry a little weight." And she also addressed those pesky gay rumors, saying "The line I heard was, 'Wolverine? Who would have thought?' Hugh and I don't pay much heed. It's kind of tragic that these people have nothing better to do than gossip about people they don't know." - Page Six
Sources tell People Kris Humphries plans to file for legal separation (rather than divorce) from Kim Kardashian. The reasoning behind Kris's decision is because he reportedly plans to have the marriage annulled, which means he wants to remove from his record of ever being married to her. And that's a considerably different tune than the one he was singing originally, which was that he would do anything to work on his marriage. - People
Last week it was announced The Bachelorette's Ali Fedotowski and Roberto Martinez split up, and now Ali is on the cover of People telling us she was the one who ended the relationship. She explained why she decided to do so, saying "I wouldn't be being truthful if I said this came out of nowhere. We definitely had been having problems. But I had always believed that we could work it out. We both realized we were unhappy more than we were happy. And we both deserved more." - People
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.