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.
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.