Rules Don't Apply




A tale about Howard Hughes in Hollywood that doesn’t need to be told.

Rules Don't Apply

Lily Collins with Annette Bening


It’s rarely a good sign when the release of a film is delayed again and again. Even so, when Bob Hoskins was at last seen in the Conrad adaptation The Secret Agent in 1996 I was strongly supportive of what I saw as an imperfect but worthwhile film unfairly maligned due to its postponed appearance in cinemas. Alas, I cannot feel the same about Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply which has had a somewhat similar history. Now eighty-years-old, Beatty, having nursed the project for some years, now makes a comeback as star, director and writer of a work centred on the eccentric, reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. But, in contrast to the triumphant return of the octogenarian James Cagney in 1981’s Ragtime, Beatty’s effort proves singularly ill-judged.


The film’s opening, set in 1964, is very promising, but then the movie moves back to 1958 to tell an invented tale about a young actress, Marla (Lily Collins), arriving in Hollywood to audition for Hughes at RKO. Back in 2004 Martin Scorsese made Hughes the subject of his biopic The Aviator. That film took a wide-ranging look at the mogul.  Beatty in contrast hones in on a limited period in his life when the power that Hughes had amassed did not prevent allegations being made that his reclusiveness hid the fact that he was in dire need of psychiatric help. Consequently, although Beatty’s performance is persuasive, his Hughes is not a figure who arouses any feelings other than valid bemusement at his behaviour. As though to compensate, Rules Don’t Apply also offers us a love story featuring Marla and a driver, Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), who, working for Hughes, hopes to interest him in a development project. But through no fault of the actors neither Marla nor Frank emerges as a sympathetic figure.


The storyline has its own weaknesses. Marla’s mother (a good supporting performance from Annette Bening) knows of Hughes’s reputation with women and yet, despite her strong religious and moral stance, brings Marla to Hollywood and then leaves her there. Adopting her mother’s outlook, Marla has remained a  virgin, and yet she most improbably succumbs to Hughes’s eventual advances (here it does matter that Beatty is nearly thirty years older than Hughes would have been at the time). With Frank going up in the hierarchy around Hughes and promoting his own ends, he is no more appealing. Furthermore, if a handful of names are seriously underused here (among them Ed Harris, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and Oliver Platt), the film moves into the realms of farce with a comic cameo from Steve Coogan so broadly played that it channels silent cinema slapstick.


The film looks good as photographed by Caleb Deschanel and, although strongly milked through repetition, there is an adroit song echoing the title, 'The Rules Don’t Apply to You.' However, that song apart, the music track is abysmal. Recordings from the period are amateurishly imposed, both songs and instrumental numbers. Worst of all, what starts reasonably as the distant sound of an orchestra in the Hollywood Bowl playing the famous Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony subsequently provides a classical theme tune on the soundtrack brought in again and again (and again) without its emotion ever being earned. Ghastly.




Cast: Warren Beatty, Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, Annette Bening, Haley Bennett, Candice Bergen, Matthew Broderick, Steve Coogan, Ed Harris, Megan Hilty, Amy Madigan, Oliver Platt, Martin Sheen, Paul Sorvino, Taissa Farmiga, Hart Bochner, Graham Beckel, Paul Schneider, Eileen Ryan, Marshall Bell, Michael Badalucco, James Gleason, Joe Cortese, Holmes Osborne, Dabney Coleman.


Dir Warren Beatty, Pro Warren Beatty, Arnon Milchan, Brett Ratner, James Packer, Steve Bing, Ron Burkle, Frank Giustra, Steven Mnuchin, Sybil Robson Orr, Terry Semel, Jeffrey Soros, William D. Johnson, Christopher Woodrow, Molly Conners, Sarah E. Johnson andJonathan Mccoy, Screenplay Warren Beatty, from a story by Warren Beatty and Bo Goldman, Ph Caleb Deschanel, Pro Des Jeannine Oppewall, Ed Billy Weber, F. Brian Scofield, Leslie Jones and Robin Gonsalves, Costumes Albert Wolksy.


Regency Enterprises/RatPac Entertainment/Worldview Entertainment/Considered Entertainment/Robson Orr Entertainment/Shangri-La Entertainment/Fiore Group/Demarest Films/Windsor Media/Tatira-20th Century Fox.
127 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 21 April 2017. Cert. 12A.