What better way to round out November 2016 than with an overstuffed biopic about an eccentric billionaire despot who uses his inherited wealth to make a giant mess of things in the entertainment industry and federal government? There’s a deep sense of irony in the release date of Warren Beatty’s Howard Hughes film, “Rules Don’t Apply.” But it’s so bad it would be a stinker even if it wasn’t cloaked in a dark shroud of cultural and political relevancy.
Beatty, on screen for the first time in 15 years, plays the notoriously weird Hollywood and aviation mogul in the film, which he directed and co-wrote.
The story concerns two young squires in Hughes’ charge. Alden Ehrenreich and Lily Collins are the cute-as-buttons romantic leads, doomed young people who sell their souls to Hughes. Ehrenreich is Frank, a driver for the mogul, and Collins is Marla Mabrey, one of the numerous starlets under contract whom Hughes strings along. Marla’s devout mother, Lucy (Annette Bening), is the only person who calls out the disrespectful behavior of Hughes, and so she’s quickly dispatched.
“Rules Don’t Apply” is one hot, frantic mess. The film hurtles along at a breakneck pace, slamming from scene to scene, intercutting disparate scenes of Marla and Howard and Frank willy-nilly. The soundtrack blares with 10-second long music cues seemingly gleaned from a Golden Oldies CD Beatty found under his couch. The movie never slows down to breathe.
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The film’s one bright spot is Collins, who is Audrey Hepburn-level adorable and shows her fast-talking screwball comedy chops.
Despite a feel-good ending supposed to make us sympathize with Hughes, the film is a cautionary tale about the seductive nature of money and power, and the consequences of entering into an abusive relationship with a mentally ill person for the sake of getting ahead. In that light, “Rules Don’t Apply” proves to be stunningly prescient and a tale we should take to heart.
‘Rules Don’t Apply’
Rated PG-13 for sexual material including brief strong language, thematic elements and drug references. 2:06. Fayette Mall, Frankfort, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester.