Warren Beatty wrote the story and the screenplay, produced (along with 15 other Hollywood bigwigs such as Steve Bing, Brett Ratner, Arnon Milchan and James Packer), directed and co-stars in Rules Don’t Apply. To say that this is Mr. Beatty’s passion project would be an understatement. TIME magazine predicted Beatty would play Hughes on screen in 1976. Finally, 40 years later, Beatty’s Hughes has arrived.
Howard Hughes is a figure that people have come to know quite a bit about, either because they were around during his time or through movies based on some portion of his life. We know he was filthy rich, eccentric (to say the least), brilliant, and that he suffered with mental health issues, most notably near the end of his life. This makes Hughes a difficult subject to cover and bring something fresh to. I believe Beatty succeeded. This movie is not a documentary or a biopic, but very much in the vein of Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead, it injects a real life character into a fictionalized situation.
I watched Beatty’s first movie, Splendor in the Grass (1961) not two weeks ago when Turner Classic Movies held a Natalie Wood showcase. He’s been in the business for over 50 years and he knows his stuff. As a huge fan of classic films, I believe Beatty captures a true, old Hollywood feel here; and why shouldn’t he be able to? He was there. The music, the wardrobe, the set design, the use of old footage (real and recreated) and photographs, the dialogue, even the old-fashioned nature of the love story between the two young lovers (played by Lily Collins (yes, Phil’s daughter) and Alden Ehrenreich) harkens back to a time when movies featuring stories such as this were made. The movie also contains some rather sweet sentiment that one can immediately recognize as a characteristic of many classic movies.
Love it or hate it (and plenty of people I talked to after the movie really didn’t care for it at all), Rules Don’t Apply is a nearly perfect depiction of the fine line between genius and insanity. It shows how 1950’s/1960’s white male privilege combined with inexhaustible funds, enormous political and social power, at least one mental disorder, physical maladies, drug addiction, and surrounding one’s self with “yes men” who will indulge one at every turn under the threat of losing their job, can be a tragic recipe; until Beatty sprinkles it with his own brand of mirthful humor. Hughes’ character is so pathetic at times it becomes difficult to laugh at him. It almost physically and spiritually hurts. But laugh you will because Warren Beatty will make you laugh. Even out loud at times. Humor, along with using the story of the two lovers to break up Hughes’ moments of madness, and vice versa, allows the movie to never get too “deep” or too “dark.” Individually, Hughes descends into madness and the young lovers face their challenges. Collectively, we can see the ages old clash of the older generation versus the younger generation, so that there are really three stories going on at once.
The acting here is incredibly solid as the cast moves fluidly between comedy and drama. Beatty, Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich do a fine job. I’m looking forward to seeing more from Ms. Collins. There was such star power in the supporting cast, I will not even name all the familiar faces you will see here. They were a pleasant surprise to me and I’d like them to be the same for you, if you choose to see this movie. Beatty could not go wrong with this cast if he tried.
Rules Don’t Apply earned 8.5 out of 10 bloops. It is a great movie that shouldn’t be missed. It is a thoughtfully made and portrayed movie where you can feel the love and time put into it. It has some problems with plot here and there and with some editing, but the acting was top notch, the story was interesting, and best of all, there was humor where you would least expect it. Beatty focusing on just a snippet of Hughes’ life inspired me to research Hughes; refreshing what I already knew and learning even more. Rules Don’t Apply is a quirky movie with some original elements that make it work in my opinion. Good work Mr. Beatty. Good work.