If you are holding your breath that I’m going to love a 2 hour and 10-minute love story that is more poorly written than the love story of Daphne and Freddy, you may want to have someone read your last rites. Warren Beatty has apparently been working on a story about Hollywood Legend, Howard Hughes for 4 decades. So Beatty came out of retirement to write, produce, and direct a vanity project called Rules Don’t Apply. This film is described as a romantic comedy-drama but I can barely remember laughing, nor buying anything remotely resembling a romance or drama. Guess I should explain why I feel this is one of the dumbest movies all year so here’s Rules Don’t Apply.
Set in Hollywood in the late 1950s, our story begins with a couple of dreamers and the focus of this ‘love story’ Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) and Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich). Frank is Howard’s personal driver and Lily is an inspiring actress straight from a little old Christian town in Virginia. Marla and Frank quickly bond over the fact that neither of them have actually met Mr. Hughes despite working for him for weeks. One of the biggest angles of the film is Hughes’s rules of secrecy. He doesn’t like being seen by the people who work for him and doesn’t take meetings with people who are in the same hotel as him. This leads to questions about Hughes mental capacity as many believe he is suffering from Dementia and that he needs to step down as CEO of his companies but he refuses to listen and fires anyone who even suggests he needs help.
The first half of this film is a jumbled mess. The editing and pace are seriously out of whack. Many scenes are cut and pasted together with almost no context at all. One scene, you’ll see Frank driving Marla and her mom in the car, the next scene they are back at the house talking about nothing, next scene Matthew Broderick talks to the camera for 4 seconds before cutting back to the car. It’s like that episode of Rocko’s Modern Life when they dropped the film reel all over the floor and they shoved it into the projector hoping the finished product would make sense. Another big problem this movie has, it doesn’t know what it wants to be. This film is sold as a Romantic Comedy but it’s also a film about Howard Hughes losing his mind while a ‘love story’ plays in the background.
Speaking this ‘love story’, they really botch any emotional involvement you were supposed to have with either one of these characters. The center of this story is two young people happen to get close because they share much of the same views on life and religion despite the fact that Frank already has a girlfriend in Fresno he really doesn’t want to be with. When a makeout session is cut short because Frank apparently has never touched a woman despite having one 200 miles away, a distraught Marla is called in by Hughes (by mistake). After drinking an entire bottle of Champagne by herself (impressive for a 100-pound woman) Marla sings a song for Hughes where they have sex and she becomes pregnant with his child. A small note on the age gap here, Beatty is almost 80 and he’s playing Howard Hughes at a point where Hughes was supposed to be in his 50s. Now I understand he’s been working on this film longer than most people have been alive but you can’t help but feel this was a huge miscast but who am I to question someone else’s vanity project? A whole bunch of crap happened and by the film’s end, we jump forward to 1964, a five-year time jump and Marla returns to show Hughes his 4-year-old son from what looks like his deathbed. Frank who hasn’t spoken to Marla in 5 years and never saw her child, suddenly realizes that Hughes is the father of her child. Instead of being realistically upset, Frank quits his job on the spot, runs downstairs, finds Marla and they live happily after ever with Hughes’s son as the movie ends…Yeah. In what should have ended with a lengthy custody battle and a lot of shouting and crying, Frank just decides all is forgiven and runs back into the arms of a woman who he hasn’t spoken to since the 50s with her son who is fathered by his boss…and now you know why I put ‘love story’ in quotation marks.
Rules Don’t Apply is a film that fails on just about every conceivable level. The only good thing I can say about it is, that it’s probably one of Lily Collins better performances, too bad it’s wasted in this punchbowl of a film. The flaws are simply too much for you to take it seriously on any level. It’s like someone decided to do a 1950s love story and a Hollywood Biopic and failed to do either one properly. It’s ironic that this film is about a Hollywood Legend who’s trying to be the boss while whacked outta his mind because after watching this movie, I think it’s time for Warren Beatty to enjoy the rest of his life at home before he gets sectioned.
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