#REVIEW: “RULES DON’T APPLY”
Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
Bio-pics about billionaire Howard Hughes are nothing new – even Leonardo DiCaprio has played the famous recluse. What makes Rules Don’t Apply unique is that it is obstinately not a Bio-pic. Instead it is a film which happens to revolve around Hughes but is actually about two fictional characters who work for him.
Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) arrives in Hollywood at the invitation of Howard Hughes so she can train and audition to star in an upcoming Film. After settling-in at her plush mansion digs, she heads to the studio to discover she is one of a dozen women to whom Hughes has extended similar invitations. With her big screen dreams stalled, Marla begins a flirtation with her driver, Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich). Although both young dreamers work for the elusive Hughes (Warren Beatty), neither has met him. The fantastic chemistry between Marla and Frank moves the story as they both finally meet their benefactor and claim their spaces in his life. As Hughes descends further into paranoia and pushes away the old guard, he embraces the newcomers and puts his faith in their dimming innocence.
Beatty split his focus to make this passion project: writing, directing, and starring in the Film. Although his performance his sure to garner him a slew of nostalgic nominations as awards season nears, the Movie deserved his full attention behind the camera. Rules works best when Collins and Ehrenreich are able to play off one another using Beatty as a motivational set piece around whom they orbit.
The tonal quality of the Film is set early on with archival footage and artfully selected music designed to draw the viewer’s attention away from the fantastic cavalcade of cameos and back to Marla and Frank’s complicated road to happiness. Beatty, known for his careful curation of music, doesn’t disappoint with a quirky original song taking center stage in the story.
Despite the Filmmaker’s wishes most critics are sure to write-off Rules as being primarily about Hughes. What if both the Critics and the Filmmaker are wrong to a degree? At its most simplistic this is Movie about a notorious playboy who finally marries and after years of being a recluse decides, with the help of his close friends and family, to come out for one last big hurrah before fading back into history. To be blunt, this critic believes Rules is as much a reflection of the life of its writer/director/star as it is about Howard Hughes. All of Beatty’s past directorial efforts have often been reflections of the man himself so why would Rules be any different. I say this not to diminish an interesting Movie but to suggest that its characters and story deserve a deeper dive than simply stamping it as another Hughes Bio-pic.
It would be easy to write this Film off as a vanity project pushed into the multiplex by a tired Oscar winner in search of his now fading glory. But it is so much more than that: Rules Don’t Apply is a coda worthy of a great Filmmaker. Beatty’s return behind the camera should be heralded as a reason to give thanks this weekend.
20th Century Fox Canada release Rules Don’t Apply on Wednesday, November 23, 2016.