Endless Love

14-year-old girls will love Endless Love. Maybe some of their moms will like it, too. Guys may appreciate it because of its potential to put their ladies in a romantic mood. But Endless Love is not a good movie.

David (Alex Pettyfer) and Jade (Gabriella Wilde) exchange glances at their high school graduation. Throughout 4 years of school, he’s never spoken to her! Coincidence of coincidences: David valet parks Jade’s family’s car when they go out to dinner that day. He takes her for a joyride in another guy’s cool car. Voila! Instant attraction!

Jade has a graduation party. David is there. They flirt. They kiss. They fall in love.

In short order, they consummate in front of a roaring fire. (The movie is set in Atlanta where it is hot right after graduation. Not exactly the best time to build a fire in the fireplace.) From that night on, they can’t get enough of each other.

The movie shifts its focus a bit to Jade’s father Hugh (Bruce Greenwood). His efforts to protect his daughter are not due merely to his knowing what teenage boys like to do to teenage girls. The death of Jade’s older brother two years earlier has caused her dad major grief and Jade is now the family’s shining star. Jade’s mother Anne (Joely Richardson) supports her daughter’s romance and has a bit of a mom-crush on David herself.

When Jade turns down her summer internship to stay home and party with David, the lovers have fun but dad is not happy. There’s a good bit of Hallmark Channel level melodrama that leads up to the film’s climax. Spoiler alert: Unlike Shakespeare’s precocious lovers Romeo and Juliet, neither David nor Jade die at the end.

Endless Love may click with teens because its sexual content is mild. The language is tame. Even when the kids get stoned, we don’t see them smoking onscreen. The rating is PG-13. (The 1981 Endless Love starring Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt was rated R.)

Endless Love caters to those who are in love with the idea of being in love. The two stars, Pettyfer (age 23) and Wilde (age 24), are attractive but their acting chops need to be honed a bit. You can send your teenage daughter to see Endless Love, but if you are over 17, you should view at your own risk.

The Place Beyond The Pines

Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper have just one scene together in The Place Beyond the Pines, but it’s the pivotal scene of the movie. In a film full of interesting and well-developed characters, theirs are the ones the movie is built around. A film with strong performances from two of our best young actors is one that must be seen.

These two men are both basically good guys who each face moral dilemmas. Gosling plays a guy who rides stunt motorcycles in a carnival. He reluctantly becomes a bank robber. Cooper goes from law school to the police force where he encounters that bank robber.

The story’s good, but the main reason to see The Place Beyond the Pines is to meet all these people. In addition to Gosling’s Luke and Cooper’s Avery, Eva Mendes is Romina, a Latino who bears Luke’s son after a quick hookup. This is a non-glam role for her and she inhabits it well. Ben Mendelsohn plays Robin, a local guy who gives Luke a place to stay. Robin is also the guy who points Luke toward robbing banks.

Poor Ray Liotta. Whenever you see him in a movie, you know something bad is going to go down. He plays a crooked cop. Strong character actor Bruce Greenwood plays the local D.A. The two young actors who play the sons, Dane DeHaan as Luke’s son, Jason, and Emory Cohen as Avery’s son, AJ, also bring good acting chops to the movie.

Avery is conflicted about his being proclaimed a hero cop after his incident with Luke, but eventually he milks it and moves into politics. Suddenly, the movie jumps ahead 15 years to the relationship between the teen sons of the two men. The “third act,” as some have called this part of the movie, reveals more about Avery, as well as the boys. It provides a fitting conclusion to the narrative.

The movie is set in Schenectady, NY. The town name is Mohawk for “place beyond the pines.” According to web postings, the names of the Schenectady streets, banks, TV stations and newspaper are the actual names. The police uniforms are supposedly the exact ones worn by Schenectady cops. The story, though, is pure fiction.

The Place Beyond The Pines is among the year’s best, so far. It’s harder for a March release (April, in St. Louis) to get award nominations than, say, a November release. But good writing, excellent acting and a well-assembled movie should lead to year-end accolades. I recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flight

“Flight” features another outstanding performance from Denzel Washington. His character is a complex man with a big problem that leads to an even bigger problem.

Washington plays “Whip” Whittaker, a commercial airline pilot. On a short hop from Orlando to Atlanta, his plane has mechanical trouble. He uses his skill as a pilot to crash land the plane with minimal loss of life and is hailed as a hero.

When the NTSB investigates the crash, evidence shows that he was flying the plane drunk and high on coke. His alcoholism, which has led the to end of his marriage and his estrangement from his teenaged son, is a demon he tries to defeat. After he comes to the rescue of a recovering junkie and she becomes his live-in gal pal, she takes him with her to AA. He walks out of the meeting.

The two questions to be resolved: Will he be prosecuted for flying drunk? And will he be able to stay on the wagon for more than a few days at a time?

The supporting cast is a good one. Bruce Greenwood is the pilot’s union leader who offers solid support after the crash. Don Cheadle plays the pilot’s union attorney who works to get Whip’s evidence suppressed. John Goodman plays Whip’s longtime buddy and booze/drug connection. A woman who looks like she could be Diane Keaton’s daughter, Kelly Reilly, is the ex-junkie girlfriend. Melissa Leo is the NTSB administrator who conducts the climactic hearing.

The film gives us just enough of Whip’s personal struggle without bogging down the plot. Director Robert Zemeckis combines the storytelling and the character study nicely. Zemeckis, who has delivered memorable images in previous hits, also brings to “Flight” a plane crash that looks amazingly real.

It’s my opinion that any movie starring Denzel Washington is worth seeing. This may not be his best movie ever (nor is it the best ever from Zemeckis), but it’s darn good—a solid effort from all concerned. I like it.