Beatty as ec­cen­tric bil­lion­aire - not THAT one

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

War­ren Beatty doesn't want us to re­gard "Rules Don't Ap­ply," in which he stars as Howard Hughes, as a Howard Hughes film. It's ac­tu­ally a movie about late '50s Hol­ly­wood, he says, and the sex­ual pu­ri­tanism of the era. In­deed, Beatty doesn't ap­pear for a long while in this much-awaited film, which he co-wrote, di­rected and starred in - per­haps partly to prove his point that he's not the main at­trac­tion. But come on - it's War­ren Beatty, a le­gend who hasn't made a film for 15 years, play­ing Amer­ica's most fa­mous ec­cen­tric, con­tro­ver­sial bil­lion­aire un­til ... well, un­til you know who. Of COURSE it's a Howard Hughes movie.

And that's not a bad thing, be­cause what­ever you think of the new film, Beatty at 79 re­tains much of that youth­ful charisma - he may have wrin­kles, but the fea­tures are still boy­ish - that's made him a Hol­ly­wood fix­ture for more than a half-cen­tury, from "Splen­dor in the Grass" to "Bon­nie and Clyde" to "Sham­poo" to "Heaven Can Wait" to "Reds." As for "Rules Don't Ap­ply," it's many years - decades, ac­tu­ally - in the mak­ing, brings to­gether a who's who list of on-and-off­screen tal­ent, looks gor­geous - and still feels strangely un­even and tonally con­fus­ing. But if you can get over that, it's un­de­ni­ably en­ter­tain­ing and at times, even quirk­ily mes­mer­iz­ing.

It's Hol­ly­wood in 1958 - just three years be­fore Beatty him­self made his mark - and as­pir­ing star­lets are de­scend­ing on the town, among them fresh-faced Bap­tist beauty queen Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins, a gor­geous Natalie Wood looka­like). She's been in­vited by the reclu­sive Hughes to au­di­tion for his RKO Pic­tures. Once there, she re­al­izes she's just one of many as­pir­ing star­lets Hughes has brought in on con­tract. But when her mother (the al­ways-su­perb An­nette Ben­ing, be­ing di­rected by her hus­band for the first time) gets the wil­lies and sug­gests they leave, Marla in­sists on stay­ing.

Per­sonal as­sis­tant

Marla's hand­some driver is as­pir­ing real-es­tate de­vel­oper Frank Forbes (the ap­peal­ingly earnest Alden Ehren­re­ich, soon to be the next Han Solo). When Marla com­plains she hasn't yet met Hughes, Frank ad­mits he hasn't met their em­ployer, ei­ther. Sud­denly, Marla's ush­ered into a dark­ened ho­tel bun­ga­low and served a TV din­ner in tin­foil. Hughes ap­pears, be­fud­dled and amus­ing. He asks her name, plays some sax­o­phone, barks into the

phone to his sub­or­di­nates. These in­clude Matthew Brod­er­ick (hav­ing lots of fun as Hughes' chief driver, espe­cially in a laugh-out-loud scene with his boss to­ward the end), Candice Ber­gen as a per­sonal as­sis­tant, and Martin Sheen as Hughes' CEO.

The plot - of­ten in short, choppy scenes un­fold­ing pell-mell - ca­reens like a pin­ball be­tween Marla, Frank and Hughes. The young cou­ple has ob­vi­ous chem­istry. There's a catch, though. Frank, a Methodist and a vir­gin like Marla, is en­gaged to his home­town sweet­heart. And Hughes, de­spite his own sex­ual dal­liances, has de­clared that driv­ers hit­ting on ac­tresses will be fired.

Vanilla ice cream

The Marla-Frank plot­line com­petes with Hughes' in­creas­ingly er­ratic episodes - tak­ing the cock­pit for a ter­ri­fy­ing ride while singing at the top of his lungs, or or­der­ing truck­fuls of Baskin-Rob­bins' Ba­nana Nut ice cream, and then declar­ing: "No More Ba­nana NUT! I want French Vanilla!" And mostly, the Frank-Marla courtship has the pizazz of, well, vanilla ice cream. The Hughes sto­ry­line? More ba­nana nut - em­pha­sis on nut. Which would you rather watch? Beau­ti­ful to look at, never less than en­gag­ing, some­times in­spired and some­times just odd, the film shifts un­easily in tone. Yet it's dis­tinctly watch­able, even when per­plex­ing us.

Is this Beatty's fi­nal big film? At this rate he'll be in his 90s for the next one. (And still look boy­ish.) All the more rea­son to ap­pre­ci­ate this, foibles aside. Per­haps for a man with the pedi­gree and charisma of War­ren Beatty, the rules re­ally don't ap­ply - and that's OK. "Rules Don't Ap­ply," a 20th Cen­tury Fox re­lease, is rated PG-13 by the Mo­tion Pic­ture Association of Amer­ica "for sex­ual ma­te­rial in­clud­ing brief strong lan­guage, the­matic el­e­ments, and drug ref­er­ences." Run­ning time: 126 min­utes. Two and a half stars out of four. Def­i­ni­tion of PG-13: Par­ents strongly cau­tioned. Some ma­te­rial may be in­ap­pro­pri­ate for chil­dren un­der 13. — AP This im­age re­leased by Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury Fox shows Lily Collins, left, and Alden Ehren­re­ich in a scene from ‘Rules Don’t Ap­ply.’

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