Film re­view

TV3’s movie ex­pert Kate Rodger views the lat­est film in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Howard Hughes’ life, this one based around a comedic story of thwarted ro­mance.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - ON SCREEN -

Rules Don’t Ap­ply

Star­ring War­ren Beatty, Lily Collins, Alden Ehren­re­ich, An­nette Ben­ing and Matthew Brod­er­ick. Writ­ten and di­rected by War­ren Beatty.

War­ren Beatty’s pas­sion project, Rules Don’t Ap­ply, won’t be win­ning Academy Awards any time soon, but for those in love with old Hol­ly­wood and fas­ci­nated by the myth and le­gend of Howard Hughes, it may just fit the bill.

The cen­tral theme is a love story, with a com­edy built around it. Lib­er­ally pep­pered with cameos large and small – Martin Sheen, Oliver Platt, Candice Ber­gen, Ed Har­ris, Alec Bald­win, Steve Coogan – Beatty’s tale fo­cuses on a bright young as­pir­ing ac­tress called Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) and the grow­ing ro­mance with her driver Frank (Alden Ehren­re­ich). The path of true love is never smooth, though, es­pe­cially in Hol­ly­wood. Both are de­vout chil­dren of God, saving them­selves for mar­riage, and Frank’s en­gaged to his child­hood sweet­heart back home in Fresno, but their big­gest hur­dle will be their boss – the leg­endary, ec­cen­tric bil­lion­aire, Howard Hughes (War­ren Beatty). Marla is one of his “con­tract ac­tresses”, one of a col­lec­tion of pretty girls lured to the bright lights by Hughes and his prom­ise of a screen test and star­dom to fol­low. Hughes has one rule – his driv­ers must NEVER frater­nise with the ac­tresses; pun­ish­ment would be im­me­di­ate sack­ing. So, for now, re­li­gion and am­bi­tion will over­rule their de­sire.

Hughes is grow­ing in­creas­ingly reclu­sive, at a time when his busi­ness in­ter­ests are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly fraught. Frank and his fel­low driver Le­var (Matthew Brod­er­ick) be­come his most trusted con­fi­dants, keep­ing his se­crets, hold­ing the world at bay and mak­ing sure he’s well stocked with ba­nana nut ice cream. Marla, mean­while, is be­com­ing im­pa­tient. Months have passed by with not a word from her mys­te­ri­ous bene­fac­tor and she is des­per­ate to meet him face to face. Once that wish is granted, how­ever, things be­come very com­pli­cated in­deed.

It’s here where the film be­comes a lit­tle la­bo­ri­ous in parts and would have ben­e­fit­ted from some ju­di­cious cuts in the edit­ing booth. Beatty’s love of the Hughes le­gend is per­haps re­spon­si­ble, and not just from where he sits in the di­rec­tor’s chair. He in­fuses his per­for­mance with an en­gag­ing odd­ball feel rather than the in­tensely un­hinged and prob­a­bly more his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate ver­sion of the man.

The per­for­mances are as re­li­able as you’d ex­pect and, in fact, it’s a real joy to watch Beatty back on the big screen. Lily Collins as the feisty Marla em­bod­ies old-school in­génue, and ris­ing star

Alden Ehren­re­ich (soon to play Han Solo in an up­com­ing Star Wars movie) has a cheeky, win­ning charm that ce­ments their ob­vi­ous at­trac­tion nicely. Matthew Brod­er­ick has some great lines, which he de­liv­ers with a dry, weary cyn­i­cism, re­mind­ing us what a pro he is.

There have been films de­voted to the Hughes story be­fore – most re­cently (and most ac­claimed) Scors­ese’s The Avi­a­tor with Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett. Rules Don’t Ap­ply is nowhere near that ball­park but it doesn’t set out to be; it’s more a gen­tle com­edy laced with ro­mance and ec­cen­tric­ity – not ex­actly mem­o­rable, but en­joy­able enough.

Lily Collins as the feisty Marla em­bod­ies old-school in­génue.

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