RULES DON’T APPLY goes heavy on the ensemble entertainment
Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. was one of the most prominent and interesting individuals of the 20th century. Born the son of a successful businessman and inventor, a pioneering vision of what was to be was literally in his DNA. Over the years Hughes, Jr. grew into quite the entrepreneur himself and carried with that, an insatiable thirst for adventure. These traits would lead him down quite the colorful road of life with many stories attached that were almost too outlandish to believe. Rules Don’t Apply focuses on what some would call the latter parts of his life when things really were interesting on a daily basis.
As you may or may not be aware, Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty) was a real aviation enthusiast among other things. Rules Don’t Apply starts off on a random day in 1964 where Howard’s love for flying gets him in quite the predicament. It is neither the first time, nor the last. Before learning the outcome of that situation, the story jumps back to five years prior. Howard is big in the world of movies as he’s one of the biggest film producers in Hollywood. Actors and actresses come from all over with the hopes of making it onto the silver screen.
Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) has made the trip to Hollywood with the hopes of being discovered and finding stardom. Along with her very strict mother (Annette Bening), the pair embark on a mission that has seen so many crash and burn before them. They are placed in a home owned by Hughes to live and as Marla awaits her time. Hughes has many houses similar to this in the area and keeps quite the active stable of young aspiring actresses complete with personal drivers. Marla develops a bond with a driver named Frank (Alden Ehrenreich), who also has some dreams of his own.
Rules Don’t Apply follows three different stories that intertwine between one another throughout. Matters become quite complicated as the story progresses leading to some very entertaining exchanges. Being also an offbeat love story adds another layer of difficulty. And speaking of layers, Warren Beatty wrote the screenplay, co-wrote the story, directed and co-produced this film. That’s all in addition to him playing the reclusive Hughes. He’s experienced this project on every layer imaginable. The list of known actors involved is about as long as the producers attached (a whopping total of 15 people NOT named Warren Beatty). Martin Sheen, Matthew Broderick, Haley Bennett, Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin, Oliver Platt, Candice Bergen, Steve Coogan, Dabney Coleman, Paul Sorvino, Peter Mackenzie, Graham Beckel and Julio Oscar Mechoso. The cupboards are stocked from floor to ceiling in the talent department.
The ensemble cast plays well off of one another in their roles. While many have fleeting moments, others have a lot more time to shine. Warren Beatty captures the true essence of what Howard Hughes was said to be like. You just never knew what that guy was thinking or which direction he was going to take things. As I watched his performance, I honestly didn’t know when he was going to jump off the rails. Alden Ehrenreich continues to scorch Hollywood as one the hottest budding talents. After his performance in Hail, Caesar! (2016) there’s little chance of him flying under the radar again. And speaking of flying, he has already landed the role of a lifetime as he will be the face of Han Solo’s early years in a feature film coming to theaters in 2018. While The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013) didn’t take Lily Collins exactly where she thought she was headed, Rules Don’t Apply might have her career back on track. She’s fiery, funny and a treat to watch.
The vibe of this Warren Beatty project feels, in many ways, like that of a Woody Allen movie. That can be both good and bad once you get down to it. Allen’s style can be equally loved or hated depending on how it resonates with its audience. The only thing that really bogs down this ensemble comedy down is a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. Rules Don’t Apply will definitely appeal to a more mature audience but it could also draw in those seeking an unconventional love story. There are lots of quick-witted jabs, warmth drawn from strong relationships and even a few history lessons to be learned. After experiencing this small snapshot of Howard Hughes, Jr.’s life, I can’t help but want to know more.