Rules Don't Apply: Film Review
Cast: Warren Beatty, Matthew Broderick, Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenrich, Annette Bening, Haley Bennett, Candice Bergen
Director: Warren Beatty
Gleefully shambolic and almost perversely rambling, Warren Beatty's Rules Don't Apply is perhaps an oddly unconventional biopic of Howard Hughes, wrapped up in the romance of two dreamers.
Beatty portrays Hughes as a shadowy enigmatic figure, never fully lit in the first half of the film against a backdrop of young innocence coming to Hollywood.
In 1958 Hollywood, young actress Maria Mabrey (Lily Collins, all soft focus) arrives hoping to seal a deal for motion pictures with Hughes after he contracts her. Met on arrival by her driver Frank (the future Han Solo Ehreneich), the pair have an instant spark - but Hughes forbids any relationships between employees and the women he contracts.
However, with neither having met Hughes and both desperate to do so to secure something from the man, what transpires is entirely unexpected...
Rules Don't Apply may be a very appropriate title for the execution of this piece, which almost wilfully tries to stop you from fully loving it.
With its meandering narrative and its incredibly choppy editing, the film seems hell bent on ensuring that you can't relax into a scene early on without it dropping its guard and changing its direction. And with its lead actor being more like a Watergate villain slithering around in the shadows rather than facing the world, to say it's enigmatic is an understatement.
But thankfully, both Collins and Ehrenreich have a good chemistry and while occasionally their naivete teeters dangerously close to blandness, their spark and the forbidden love story propels enough of the "action" of the first half of the film.
And it is a film of two halves, with Beatty's back-lit Hughes and his eccentricities coming to the fore in the second half, as he becomes the guiding light for the escalating farce and lunacy. As the maelstrom of madness comes to a head, Beatty finally brings something a bit wistful and whimsical to his turn, and it's greatly welcome.
Ultimately, Rules Don't Apply is nowhere near as bad as the international reviews would have you believe. Sure, accusations of it being a vanity project are fairly close to the mark, and it could stand to lose some of the narrative fat, but all in all, this is an indie with a screwball heart at its core, and a touch of human tragedy in its DNA.