Every once in a while—happily only a once in a great while—I come across a movie which is, for lack of a more descriptive term (we’ll get to that exploration later), bad, but, which also fails to engender anger. Perhaps it should, but it doesn’t. This isn’t because the movie isn’t as unenjoyable as it seems, or that I’m not as disappointed as I ought to be, but rather that the movie is so terribly lackluster that it doesn’t produce vitriol.
At this point I should say that I keep writing and erasing lines about how the movie doesn’t really try very hard, that it evinces a lack of effort. I will not use that pejorative because the truth is this (as I’ve said before) – films come together, even bad ones, because a lot of people put in a ridiculous amount of work to make them come together. As downright deflating as Scott Speer’s “Endless” might be, it took a huge number of folks to bring it to whatever life it possesses.
The easiest way to explain “Endless,” which features a script from O’Neil Sharma and Andre Case is that it’s a poor knockoff of “Ghost” for the teenage crowd; one with a little “Romeo & Juliet” thrown in for good measure. Starring Alexandra Shipp and Nicholas Hamilton in the Demi Moore/Juliet and Patrick Swayze/Romeo rolls, this movie sees a teenage girl getting ready to go off to college and having a fight with her boyfriend over it on the fateful night he passes from this Earth. Well, not “passes” because he hangs around for the entirety of the movie looking over her shoulder, but on the night he loses his corporeal form.
Shipp is Riley, ranked second in her class at high school graduation, with a lawyerly future ahead of her. When she gets a letter dated mid-October 2019, offering her admission to fall of 2019 class of Georgetown, we are told that she will be heading there in five weeks, right after the internship she’s doing with the D.A. is finished (the one Riley’s opening voiceover already told us is in the past).
There is no rule that says one has to head to college right out of high school, but there does tend to be one about not getting admitted for the fall semester halfway through the fall semester and another about not showing up for the fall semester as the end is drawing nigh. It is also pretty clear that Riley’s parents would be distressed with her not simply taking a semester off, but not even applying to the school they both went to on time.
It is also a little weird that Riley’s boyfriend, Chris (Hamilton), didn’t actually think that Riley would be going to Georgetown pre-law despite their great, loving, relationship and her currently being in the middle of an internship for the D.A. Is their relationship that closed off to her everyday life? The movie certainly doesn’t give the feeling in anything anyone offers up the relationship.
Then there’s the issue of the car crash that kills Chris. Riley tells the police, who think the entire thing exceptionally suspicious, that the car ahead of them had stopped short and didn’t have brake lights, which is why she didn’t brake.
She is distracted at that moment, it’s true, and the car may stop short, but it stops short at a stop sign. It is a predictable move that the police officer, the one who is harassing Riley, doesn’t seem to care about. There is also no mention made whatsoever of the second crash, the one that actually kills Chris.
After Riley hits the car stopped at the stop sign, a second car, roughly 10 seconds later, coming from the cross street, T-bones the car Riley and Chris are in. This car doesn’t seem to slow down despite ample time to do so. Have the police contacted this driver? Why didn’t this drive slower down? Why didn’t the driver swerve?
This oversight, like the college application and the timing of the internship and Chris not knowing Riley might be serious about pursuing the law, is one of those things that seems to not have been considered by the folks making the movie. Except for the police asking about the accident, all these things happen within the first 10 minutes of the movie. This is the way the movie establishes itself… or fails to. There is no explanation given, none even inferred. Reasons may exist but there are just too many blanks to be filled in with anti-Occam’s razor answers.
There is also an argument to be made that all of this is okay because, perhaps, “Endless” doesn’t actually operate in our world. These are the thoughts/questions/concerns we might all have living here on Earth and while this planet where Riley and Chris live (and die) might resemble Earth, it isn’t. After all, the movie features a certain segment of those who die still interacting with the living.
I, personally, don’t accept such an argument. I also don’t accept Riley, once she senses Chris for the first time post death on a boat dock, deciding later, when her research tells her that she needs to go somewhere important to sense him again, decides to break into their old school in the middle of the night. If it was me—and, I know it isn’t—I would just go back to the dock where I sensed the ghost of Chris once already rather than trying somewhere completely different. That would, of course, offer less diversity in filming locations, but it’s just how I think.
Riley, understandably, is in a tough place during this time. Chris is as well, but he has someone on the other side to help him out, Jordan (DeRon Horton). Jordan has been a ghost in this world (whatever world it may be) for 30 years and so he knows all the ins and outs of the place and can guide Chris through all the magical things ghosts can do. And if that sounds like a horrible stereotype of an African American character, one who has to help a white one, it certainly comes off as such in the film as well.
To be fair though, no one in the supporting cast, be they playing family (Famke Janssen appears as Chris’s mother) or friends, get much to do more than offer a way of catapulting the main characters into their next set of feelings. Then again, there isn’t much for the main characters to do either other than offer up those feelings.
When all is said and done, the love story offered up about these two high school sweethearts isn’t one that anyone outside of high school will find remotely appealing. Even those in high school very well may have trouble with it. “Endless” rushes through the all-important moments that establish the characters and events upon which the rest of the movie lays. It has the weakest of foundations and, consequently, no one should be surprised when it crumbles.
photo credit: Quiver Distribution