Review by George M. Thomas
|Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich in Rules Don't Apply.|
Written and directed by an old school Hollywood icon whose career has now spanned almost 60 years, RULES DON’T APPLY is Warren Beatty’s homage to the Tinseltown that existed during post-World War II, when men like Howard Hughes, a captain of industry, aviation, and film held sway over the country.
And men of such power enjoy being in control of all things at all times no matter who the person may be. That’s the observation from RULES. But Beatty decides to have more than his share of fun tinged with poignancy in some respects with that fact.
He uses Hughes’ well-known idiosyncrasies to set up a unique love story that reminds us of the perceived innocence of the time – or so it seems.
In the film Hughes brings hosts of women to Hollywood under the pretense of finding the next star for his latest film. Among them: Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), an extremely naïve young woman from Virginia who arrives with her mother (Annette Bening) for her big shot.
Hughes assigns each aspiring actress with her own around-the-clock driver and Marla has two – Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) and Levar Mathis (Matthew Broderick) – the former just as young and innocent and the latter, older and on the make.
Each becomes an intricate piece in Hughes life, one that he manages at his whim with non-sensical decisions, and they are many.
Most of them are the source of much of the humor found in RULES DON’T APPLY and Beatty, who at 83 shows he still possesses acting chops, delivers the fun with ease and a sly grin and a wink in the process.
Marla and Frank are firmly in the middle of Hughes manipulations, and much of the time it’s difficult to discern whether Hughes suffers from dementia in some form, or whether he just enjoys playing Gepetto to everyone else’s Pinocchio.
Marla and Frank, both being young and attractive and spending a lot of time together, eventually start to develop a friendship that begins to evolve into something stronger. All the while they have to contend with not breaking Hughes’ No. 1 rule: no play between the help.
RULES DON’T APPLY contains a few laugh-out-loud moments, but its strength lies in the consistency of the overall comedic tone. It’s fairly damn difficult to not sit and watch the on-screen proceedings without a smile plastered on your face.
Just as important: the chemistry found between Ehrenreich and Collins. They make an attractive couple, but play off of one another in an appealing way. They evolve before your eyes and that in itself is fun to watch.
If there exists a problem with RULES DON’T APPLY it comes from the movie’s pacing, which can feel frenetic at times and plodding at others.
But that doesn’t ruin the experience. RULES DON’T APPLY is a little gem from an actor-writer-filmmaker who hasn’t lost anything despite not having made a film in almost 20 years.
Movie: RULES DON’T APPLY
Director: Warren Beatty
Cast: Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Matthew Broderick
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rated: PG-13 for sexual material including brief strong language, thematic elements, and drug references
Running time: 126 minutes
George’s rating: 3-of-4 stars