Rules Don’t Apply

Nearly twenty years after his last directorial effort, actor/director Warren Beatty returns with ‘Rules Don’t Apply’. Beatty has never been one to follow any rules except his own. This has made for a more interesting and diverse career with films such as ‘Bulworth’ and ‘Dick Tracy’. He’s been away from screen for too long as ‘Rules Don’t Apply’ shows. He’s lost none of his sparkle with his charismatic presence enlivening proceedings.

Marla (Lily Collins) is an aspiring actress wanting to make it in Hollywood. It’s 1958 and she thinks the world is her oyster. Under contract to movie mogul Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty), she arrives and meets his driver Frank (Alden Ehrenreich). Also a young person wanting to go places, Frank and Marla connect via their shared religious beliefs. Their faith and aspirations become sorely tested as Hughes’ eccentric ways drive them to the edge of Hollywood lunacy.

‘Rules Don’t Apply’ is a narratively mixed bag. At turns a romantic drama and then screwball comedy, it never settles on one genre. Perhaps this was meant to reflect Hughes’ mental state as his erratic behaviour is reflected on the uneven script. Using the young leads’ romance as an angle to explore Hughes’ fragile demeanour which he uses to manipulate people, the screenplay offers some interesting insights. It doesn’t always work but when it does it’s an occasionally engrossing study of power and madness.

Beatty’s direction is as unfocussed as the story although he brings the best out of his cast. His ensemble brings energy and gravitas to various situations even if some are wasted. Collins and Ehrenreich display genuine chemistry allowing for genuine investment in their roles. Beatty more or less plays himself with added psychosis showing his acting talents have undimmed with age. He is served well by the gorgeous cinematography and score successfully evoking a bygone era on American movie-making.

More of a patchwork of incidents than a cohesive whole, ‘Rules Don’t Apply’ suffers from poor narrative structure. It generates interest but not enough to make it memorable. It’s good seeing Beatty back on screen however and hopefully he won’t leave it too long to return for another cinematic outing.

Rating out of 10: 6

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