I was hoping other reviews were too harsh on it, for I so badly wanted to love a film the establishment doesn’t understand. But the truth is it only works in fits and starts. Rules Don’t Apply turns out to be the Warren Beatty vanity project where you are bewildered as to why the iconoclast star-director spent fifteen years working on a project that was only a partial Howard Hughes story, one that ascribes unto a love story between Hughes’ limo driver and a young ingénue he convoys. My memory turns out fond for Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator” after all, and that fuller vision overshadows Beatty’s take on the Hughes character, which is cursory in comparison.
It’s hard though to deny the pleasures of Lily Collins as the classy and virginal ingénue Marla, Alden Ehrenreich as the gentlemanly limo driver named Frank who can’t fight himself for being so smitten with her, and the general vintage air of the early scenes that depict 1964 Hollywood. The way billionaire Hughes is portrayed, when he’s not consumed by phobia mania and obsessive compulsions, is as a business hound working deals around the clock and acquiring people to work for him. Hughes is bankrolling Marla’s life without having ever met her, delaying the big “screen test” he promised to prepare for her and a bunch of other starlets, too.
Everybody perceives Hughes foremost as a seductress of women, but he wins them by letting the girls make the first move. When it comes to Collins, well, the girl has it! She makes naiveté kind of, uh, pretty sexy! I think, sure, it’s obvious there’s quite a few good scenes in “Rules Don’t Apply” (the performed title song is odd, would-be discordant, but Collins makes it soar with loving pathos). Yet by the second half the film seems to narrow down to repetitive story beats, yet what’s so draggy is that the whole atmosphere feels repetitive, too. It’s not exactly a snore, but in addition to being at odds with lofty expectations, Beatty’s film is rather piecemeal.
127 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
HISTORICAL DRAMA / INSPIRATIONAL / WEEKEND NOSTALGIA
Film Cousins: “Hell’s Angels” (1930); “Melvin and Howard” (1980); “The Aviator” (2004); “The Hoax” (2006).