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Rules Don't Apply - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Rules Don't Apply
Directing: B
Acting: B-
Writing: B-
Cinematography: C+
Editing: B

I suppose we're meant to take the phrase Rules Don't Apply literally here, applied both to the characters and the movie itself. The trouble is, this is Warren Beatty's first directorial feature since Bulworth, which was eighteen years ago, and if "rules don't apply" to his return to the medium, he isn't replacing old rules with very interesting new ones.

And you'd think they would be, given that he plays an aging Howard Hughes, the infamously eccentric billionaire. Of all the performances in this movie, his feels the most phoned in. And he constantly places himself in dark rooms with most of the lights turned off, clearly a character trait meant as part of Hughes's eccentricities, but also a bit of a distraction when the actors are all in shadow. There are attempts at making this an artistic choice, with deliberately placed angles of shadow and light, but most of these scenes just leave you wishing you could see the actors.

The concept is still a fascinating one: Lily Collins plays Marla Mabrey, a devout Christian girl from Virginia traveled to Hollywood in the hopes for a screen test in one of Hughes's movies. She is one of many such young women Hughes keeps around and pays for doing very little of substance as they wait around for a chance to meet Hughes, who is insanely reclusive. Her driver (Alden Ehrenreich) feels a connection with her and they begin a very slow and unconventional courtship due to Hughes's strict rules forbidding relationships between the drivers and the girls. Ultimately Hughes seems almost out of chance to forge sudden and intimate relationships with both of them, but in very different ways.

There's a lot to work with here, and Beatty crams a lot of detail into this story, which lasts for two hours and six minutes. Beatty seems like a logical fit to play this guy, given how long it's been since he's done much work in Hollywood. He wrote the script, and also hasn't done that since Bulworth; he hasn't even been seen playing a part in a movie since Town & Country in 2001.

On all fronts, it feels a little like Warren Beatty is a little out of practice. To be fair, Rules Don't Apply isn't bad -- it's enough of a distraction as a Saturday matinee. But it's also a bit of a letdown when put into the context of this being what Warren Beatty fans have been waiting for for fifteen to twenty years. That kind of weight heightens expectations and this movie just can't meet them. It's only been out a week and a half and already it's showing only twice a day; it will be out of theatres soon. But I see no reason to tell you to rush out and see it. This is one of those movies that works best streaming when you can't find something better to watch. And honestly you'll find a lot of better things to watch.

I'm not sure I could say what Beatty should have changed to make this story better, except maybe a sense that we could trust it. After all, the opening title card advises us not to check the most interesting facts. Talk about prescient timing. Oh, one other thing: Beatty could sure have made better use of the many famous faces in this movie, who clearly just jumped at the chance to be in one of his movies. Annette Bening as Marla's mother, disappears after maybe twenty minutes into the film. Candice Bergen is completely wasted as one of Howard Hughes's secretaries, and not once does she have anything interesting to do or say. Candice Bergen! There's also Matthew Broderick in a relatively larger role as one of the other drivers; Alec Baldwin as his CEO; Oliver Platt as a potential investor; Ed Harris in a tiny role as the young driver's fiance's father; even Martin Sheen and Steve Coogan show up in small roles. Pretty much all of these people are better than this movie.

Which, as I said, is pleasant enough. It just feels like Warren Beatty was going for something great, and as far as that goes he missed the mark.

Warren Beaty stands in the dark in RULES DON'T APPLY.

Overall: B-
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