AFI Fest Review: Rules Don’t Apply to Beatty’s unconventional passion project.
Rules Don’t Apply has been a passion project for Warren Beatty for just about 40 years now. The film follows a young Hollywood hopeful named Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), who has moved from a small town in Virgina to Hollywood after being recruited by the one and only Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty). Hughes has provided Marla with her own private residence as well as a driver by the name of Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) to take her around the city. Marla and Frank are both passionate people with a similar goal in mind; to win over Mr. Hughes and work with him long into the unforeseeable future. The problem, however, is that the two form an instant connection that puts a strain on their business plans since Mr. Hughes has a strict no romance policy between anyone that works for him.
Since the launch of his career in 1957, Warren Beatty has made quite a name for himself in Hollywood. While Beatty has only directed five feature length films (and one television special), he has starred in over 30 films and television shows. Rules Don’t Apply is a unique film which I believe will have critics and audiences divided. The film doesn’t follow your standard film setup and can be rather jarring to watch. Beatty pieces together his passion project with some of the strangest edits that I have seen in recent memory. The film jumps around from scene to scene without much clarity as to how much time has passed from one scene to the other. The film does show location but once again, rarely shows a clear time frame. The only thing that is clear about the film’s timing is that the film begins and ends in Hollywood during the year 1964. The rest of the story seemed to take place over a period of 5-7 years based on some of the details revealed in the film’s conclusion.
Just like Howard Hughes real life, the film is setup in a way to make the viewer feel confused and uncomfortable at times. Howard Hughes is a fascinating and weird man that has always had a reputation of being scatterbrained and brilliant at the same time. Beatty’s film exhibits this, and I think the whole aspect of Hughes trying to hide from people was such a realistic portrayal of what this man was like in real life. Hughes was sort of a madman that was worth billions but couldn’t deal with people and was a womanizer to boot. Even with everyone knowing that Hughes was a bit off his rocker, people still loved him and wanted to work with him as shown in the film. I love the early interactions between Howard and Frank as well as Howard and Lily. They were so strange yet embodied exactly how I would imagine a recluse behaving.
The pairing of Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich is nothing short of Hollywood movie magic. The two share amazing on-screen chemistry and bounce off one another with such ease. They shine bright and are such lovable characters because they fit their roles so perfectly. There is something about the way that Collins and Ehrenreich carry themselves that they come off as people from the late 50s and early 60s without even trying. I bought into their roles as well as their chemistry almost immediately. Even though this is primarily the story of Howard Hughes, I honestly believe without these two as the leads, the film wouldn’t have worked nearly as well as it did.
Warren Beatty embraces all aspects of Howard Hughes as well as his strange personality in his later years. He brings this fascinating man to life and shows us how extreme his obsessive compulsive disorder truly was. Watching Beatty take on the role of Hughes makes you as a viewer sit back and question how did a man like this ever become one of the world’s most financially successful individuals since he was so difficult to work with.
The scene where Hughes keeps demanding Banana Nut ice cream is one that showed that he wasn’t a very rational or easy person to deal with. Hughes is shown throughout film trying to avoid people as much as he can. The film even briefly touches upon Hughes relationship with his father and how he never wants to let him down. The scene of Hughes flying an airplane with Frank and Colonel Nigel Briggs (Steve Coogan) showed Hughes at his craziest. There are plenty of other moments sprinkled throughout that show Hughes as a compassionate person as well as a man dealing with severe OCD. I think out of every single scene in the film; it was the interview scene featuring Hughes lying in bed near the film’s end where Beatty shined the brightest.
Rules Don’t Apply at its core is a well-crafted and simple love story, but the added story of a very complicated man does complicate the overall film quite a bit. While the two stories do work well at times, the overlapping storylines are without a doubt the film’s biggest downfall. I admire the complicated nature of the film’s script and how it unconventionally tries to tackle two different types of stories within one film. Unfortunately, the project as a whole doesn’t work as seamlessly as Beatty hoped for. Still, the film is definitely something noteworthy to see with three exceptional performances combined with a director that tries to not follow the rules of your standard Hollywood picture. It might not be the Award Season hopeful that Fox was looking for but I still admire a film that dares to break down the norms of everyday filmmaking.
One last thing, how the hell is Lily Collins still not a bigger star at this stage in her career? She is so charming in almost every role and somehow is yet to become a household name. Someone, please give this girl a breakout role because while I have enjoyed her in almost everything that I have seen her in, she still hasn’t gotten that big studio push that she needs to become a noteable name in Hollywood.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s rating for Rules Don’t Apply is a 7 out of 10.