This remake strips away everything that made the 1981 Brooke Shields romance so scandalous. Re-designed for 12-year-old girls, this version of Scott Spencer's novel plays like a dreamy Nicholas Sparks-style fantasy. There's no sense of urgency or danger, and not a single whiff of actual love, despite a lot of heaving sighs and longing glances. Everything on-screen feels like a predictable cliche yearning to pull our heartstrings, but these tricks only work on young teens who haven't seen many movies.
The story centres on good-guy David (Pettyfer), raised by his working-class single dad (Patrick). At his high school graduation, David finally gets up the nerve to talk to the class wallflower, beautiful rich girl Jade (Wilde), who is still grieving over the death of her big brother. There's a spark between them, but Jade's harsh dad (Greenwood) dismisses David as unworthy, then sets out to crush their blossoming romance. Jade's mother (Richardson) and brother (Wakefield) are more supportive, but Dad is so determined to get David out of Jade's life that he inadvertently pushes them even closer together. Surely a happy ending is out of the question.
Only of course it isn't, because we can see that this film doesn't have the nerve to get very dark. Filmmaker Feste only toys around with the nasty side of the story. She can't even let Greenwood play a properly conflicted man; he's essentially bipolar, veering wildly from understanding to maniacal in his reaction to the relentlessly lovely David. Pettyfer's one-note performance merely reminds us of Channing Tatum, but at least he registers on-screen, unlike the vaguely beautiful Wilde. The only performers allowed any complexity are Richardson and Patrick.
At 17, first love feels like the end of the world, but Feste never quite captures that, instead settling for a series of hackneyed sequences we never buy into. We never think that these beautiful people really care about each other. Or that they're feeling the emotions they talk about incessantly. And the script is so obvious that we can't help but race far ahead of each situation, removing all tension. That said, pubescent girls will swoon over every moment of this movie, because they believe life is like this. The rest of us know that it isn't.
Run time: 104 mins
In Theaters: Friday 14th February 2014
Box Office USA: $23.4M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Bluegrass Films, Fake Empire, Universal Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 15%
Fresh: 13 Rotten: 72
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Shana Feste
Screenwriter: Shana Feste, Joshua Safran
Starring: Alex Pettyfer as David Axelrod, Gabriella Wilde as Jade Butterfield, Robert Patrick as Anne Butterfield, Rhys Wakefield as Anne Butterfield, Emma Rigby as Jenny, Joely Richardson as Anne Butterfield, Bruce Greenwood as Hugh Butterfield, Dayo Okeniyi as Mace, Anna Enger as Sabine, Fabianne Therese as Checka
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