Rules Don't Apply
Warren Beatty is one of the few Hollywood artists that are able to multitask so many jobs in a single film. He’s know to write, direct, produce, and act in many of his own passion projects, but he’s been absent from the silver screen for nearly two decades. He now, however, makes his return with Rules Don’t Apply, in which he dons the multi-tasker cape once again.
Rules Don’t Apply is a romance between an actress named Marla (Lilly Collins) and her studio driver Frank (Alden Ehrenreich) both of who are employed in 1950s LA by the film conglomerate Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty). The film looks at the conservative time unlike a lot of period pieces do. There are certain explorations of religious control, misogyny, and even sexual harassment that surprised me in its capability of being applicable to today’s social climate. As the film goes on the focus then becomes less on the romance and more on the business ventures of Hughes during the latter part of his life when he began to lose his mind.
The film is essentially split in two. The first half of the film deals more with Marla and Frank’s falling in love and it’s done incredibly. There is a certain signature style that Beatty inputs in this first half that makes it seem so unique. I’ll go as far to say that if the stability would have carried on to the rest of the film, Rules Don’t Apply could have been one of the best films of the year. However, somewhere along the middle there is a sudden shift and the film loses itself completely and becomes an absolute mess. This latter half feels more like a terribly edited montage of deleted scenes, there is no narrative objective and the whole romance is thrown away; you almost look backward at the projector in the theater to see if they accidentally switched the films.
This being Beatty’s first directorial effort in more than 20 years, you can see that an incredible array of actors have lined up to work with him. Rules Don’t Apply contains many fun cameos and small supporting roles of actors ranging from Steve Coogan to Ed Harris, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Oliver Platt, and Alec Baldwin. For the two lead characters, Beatty did well in casting both Collins and Ehrenreich, two up and coming actors whose recent film roles have seem small for them. If these two youngsters are able to hit the target with more complicated characters in better films, they will surely be catapulted into stardom. Beatty himself also gives an incredibly constant and expert performance as Hughes; his absence from the screen by no means has rusted his acting chops.
In the end however the film’s second half slump is incredibly damaging. You manage to lose both interest and confidence in the film. This is a sad return for Beatty who certainly is capable of, and deserves, much better.