Fourteen-time Oscar nominee Warren Beatty’s newest picture comes with certain expectations and, despite the wry casting of legendary Hollywood Lothario Beatty as eccentric aviator-producer billionaire (and fellow Lothario) Howard Hughes, it fails to meet most.
Rules Don’t Apply uncovers unsavoury aspects of Hughes’ conduct – occasionally to the audience’s gentle amusement, but also largely to its squirming disgust. His stable of starlets under personal contract, alongside the audience, muse on the nature of their relationship with the reclusive man.
Beatty is uncomfortable to watch as the addled Hughes, terrified of his clouded mind and advancing years. It’s accomplished acting, but somehow grotesque – particularly if ruminating on the 50-year age gap between him and leading lady Lily Collins.
Alden Ehrenreich as Frank, ambitious young driver to Hughes and his girls, is, in contrast, exceedingly watchable and sympathetic, capable of portraying enormous emotion with the merest of facial expressions.
Collins has a more difficult time with “good girl” movie hopeful Marla Mabrey – an inconsistent character, and the object of Frank’s affections. Despite living the old Hollywood allegory, when crushed by her unfulfilled desires her downwards trajectory is at odds with her previous behaviour.
The film is disjointed, lurching about the place between scenes and settings, meaning the concept of a progressing storyline is slippery – and slow-moving. Is this a reflection of Hughes’ troubled state of mind and the exhaustingly transient lifestyle of the mogul and his staff? Or just a script suffering from too many drafts?
The rules don’t apply here for Beatty’s fêted touch. Like the wings of Hughes’ famous planes, this film experiences large amounts of drag. A who’s who of Hollywood in supporting roles – as well as the stellar Ehrenreich – and fine, vintage production design, however, avoid it being a total plane wreck.
CAST: Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Matthew Broderick, Annette Bening, Candice Bergen, Martin Sheen
DIRECTOR: Warren Beatty
WRITER: Warren Beatty (screenplay and story), Bo Goldman (story)
SYNOPSIS: Innocent Marla Mabrey arrives in Hollywood ready to get to work at being a movie actress for her boss, eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes. With months passing and still no sign of her meeting the recluse though, she comes to rely on her driver Frank, who has ambitions of his own.