“Something we didn’t plan on has happened.”
If you watched the trailer you might be under the impression that Rules Don’t Apply is a romantic comedy, set in the 1950s/60s, that has interjections of a quirky side character in the form of Warren Beatty playing Howard Hughes. It’s not quite that movie. Nor is it a biopic of Howard Hughes. Instead it’s a hybrid of both movies, the kind of hybrid that goes against expectation and may initially feel like a unsuccesful movie due to it’s confused & convoluted nature. It’s only after watching and upon reflection that you may ‘get’ the movie and begin to fully appreciate it.
Hughes was one of the great eccentric charismatics from the Golden Hollywood era. A billionaire businessman, investor, pilot, film director and philanthropist. By the late 1950s he was a virtual recluse, shying away from the light both literally and metaphorically as he hid away in darkened rooms, and used various different schemes to conceal his location from the world – such as paying for 8 hotel rooms and 5 bungalows just so no-one knew which room he was actually in. In the late 1950s Warren Beatty was a pretty young thing who had just arrived in Hollywood. The men represented very different generations from very different experiences, Hughes was at the top of the Hollywood pyramid and Beatty’s career was just gaining traction. Physically their paths barely crossed but for decades onwards Beatty found himself fascinated by Hughes.
Beatty is now closer to the age that Hughes was when their paths briefly crossed in the 1970s. This biographical element needs to be taken into account when interpreting this film, a film which Beatty wrote, directed and stars in as Howard Hughes. There’s one sequences in particular, when Hughes tests out his new chauffeur Frank Forbes (Ehrenreich), that feels like the meeting of generations that happened for Beatty years prior, except he is now the older of the two. Like a passing of the torch we observe a figurehead of old Hollywood handing over to a burgeoning figurehead of new Hollywood (Ehrenreich has been one to watch since his role in Hail, Caesar! and will be starring as Han Solo).
That’s the aspect that the film is really about – the nature of aging, identity, perception, religion, dreams and fulfillment. Although the love story is beautiful to watch, the chemistry between Frank Forbes and wanna-be actress Marla Mabrey (Collins) is a joy to watch and is shown in the utterly charming way only the classics seemed to capture romance, you’d leave the cinema disappointed if that’s the reason you paid for admission.
It’s not quite a love letter to cinema, nor a tribute to one of the most infamous players of the oligopoly that was the Golden Hollywood studio system, but instead an epitaph to an era of Hollywood that Beatty encountered at the start of his career.
‘Rules Don’t Apply’ opened in UK cinemas on April 21st.
Year: 2017 Runtime: 127 minutes Dir: Warren Beatty
Starring: Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Matthew Broderick, Martin Sheen, Annette Bening.
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