If you’re younger than 30, you probably don’t know who Warren Beatty is, and you probably don’t care that this film is his mighty comeback from his directing hiatus since the late 90’s.
I was a little wary going into this film. Usually movies with the same person directing, writing, and producing end up being more of a massive self-induced ego stroke than a reasonably watchable movie.
Rules Don’t Apply is a romantic drama film set in the late 50s. Howard Hughes is the biggest name in aviation and show business, and everybody wants to be him, know him, or work for him. The two central characters of the story are Marla Mabrey and Frank Forbes. Marla, a young Baptist actress from the country conscripted by Hughes’ company, comes to Hollywood in hopes of landing the leading role of one of his productions. Frank is her designated driver, who immediately finds himself balls over forehead attracted to her.
Difficulties arise when they’re met with Hughes’ strict no employee romances rule. But as the title implies, the rules don’t exactly apply to them… because they’re young and hot.
It’s a little hard to describe the movie in hindsight, mostly due to the amount of story they managed to cram into two hours. The movie is almost too long for the message it’s trying to get across, but credit is due where credit is due. The editing is nearly symphonic in how it moved through the story. We move through Marla and Frank’s story at a machine gun-like pace, only stopping to dwell on tender character moments.
The film paints Howard Hughes to be an eccentric recluse whose crazed behaviour causes nonstop chaos around him. Warren Beatty does a wonderful job of creating a multi-dimensional Hughes, but the liberties taken with his character seemed almost comical. Many of the decisions he makes throughout the movie are inexplicable at best, and the reason for why everyone goes along with his craziness — even to the point of risking their own lives — is simply, “He’s Howard Hughes.”
The movie suffers greatly from its bizarre and unfocused aim. The movie can’t seem to decide whether it wanted to be a romance between Marla and Frank, or a character piece on Howard Hughes. It jumps back and forth between storylines, often abandoning characters for extended periods of time for unknown reasons. The story skitters along with no driving force other than Hughes’ lunacy. At the end of the day, I’m not sure what I was supposed to take away from the film. Was it the romance? Was it Howard Hughes acting like a huge diva about not having enough banana nut ice cream? Who knows?
Ultimately, Rules Don’t Apply was entertaining to watch, stunning to behold, but strange to experience. The story was nonsensical and the acting was mediocre. Despite all that, I’m glad I got to see in theatres. Would I recommend it? Dear god, no. Go watch Moana or Fantastic Beasts or something.