Thursday, December 8, 2016

Movie Review #533: "Rules Don't Apply" (2016)

Director: Warren Beatty
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 6 minute
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The story of a young actress named Marla (Lily Collins), her driver/real estate entrepreneur Frank (Alden Ehrenreich), and how they are brought together and torn apart by reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty), for whom they both work.

"Rules Don't Apply" is written and directed by Warren Beatty, who is the Oscar winning director of "Reds" and the Oscar nominated actor from "Bugsy," among many other films. That being said, it has been 18 years since Beatty has directed a feature film and 15 years since he's even appeared on screen. This project in particular has been in the works for decades, only now finally coming to fruition. Unfortunately, it was most certainly not worth the wait.

The film tells the story of a young devout Baptist girl from Virginia named Marla Mabrey, played by Lily Collins, who has moved to Hollywood as an actress on retainer to Howard Hughes, played by Beatty himself, of course. Upon arriving in L.A., she meets a driver who also works for Hughes named Frank Forbes, played by Alden Ehrenreich. Forbes hopes to talk to Hughes about investing in a piece of real estate in order to develop affordable housing near Mulholland Drive. Marla and Frank hit it off and begin a friendship, but Hughes has strict rules about those he employs and his actresses not being in relationships.

This movie is as spastic and unfocused as the billionaire Hughes himself. We wonder if Warren Beatty took the title as an opportunity to rewrite his own book on filmmaking because the rules certainly do not apply to this mess of a movie, and not in a good or explorative way. We aren't totally sure if the disjointed narrative here was intentional or just a result of the struggle Beatty had trying to find out what story he actually wanted to tell. What starts out as a bit of a farcical rom-com starts to shift into an offbeat biopic once Hughes is introduced. Hughes and his eccentricities start to become the focus of the back half of the movie where the budding romance that never was serves as the focus in the first half. In many ways, this feels very reminiscent of his film "Bugsy." Beatty takes these historical figures, a mobster there and a billionaire (who in this case has serious mental problems) here, and turns these individual's eccentricities into comedic quirks. The jokes consist of Hughes not wanting to meet people in person, his inability to hold a conversation, and his strong desires that readily change, like his demand for hundreds of gallons of banana nut ice cream only to wind up wanting french vanilla.

However, try as he may to make these instances humorous, we never really laughed and we most certainly never really felt anything for any of the characters. There are some interesting costume choices and a few instances of alluring camerawork as Beatty tries to capture 1960's Hollywood, but these cool choices get buried in sea of jagged storytelling and mediocrity. The acting is okay, but nothing spectacular. Ehrenreich and Collins give the better of the performances, but mostly the movie is just boring and maddening with a thousand cuts per 10 minute time period, as well as some really terrible and disjointed dialogue.

Just one more thing. There is a tradition in Hollywood of creating romantic interest between an old actor and a young leading lady. It would appear that Beatty has gone for a record here by creating a romantic encounter between his 79-year-old self and his leading lady Lily Collins, who is 52 years his junior. We understand his sentiment and his wanting to keep things how they often happened at that time period in Hollywood, but it's just an observation that made for uncomfortable movie watching. Woody Allen's now got nothin' on Warren Beatty.

"Rules Don't Apply" attempts to coax warm, fuzzy feelings out of its audience by showing old Hollywood and the quaintness of it all, but this feels like a disingenuous, sloppy, sub-par account of a story about a person that has been explored in a far better film. Some may argue Warren Beatty has "lost it" like Ron Howard or Robert Zemeckis have in their later years. We would argue he never had it. Avoid this one at all costs.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 4/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 56%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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