Rules Don’t Apply – Movie Review
Rating: A (Fantastic)
Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy 20th Century Fox
Warren Beatty’s first four directorial efforts established a love for classic Hollywood, whether it was the 1930’s gangster picture in Dick Tracy or a warped take on the typical Frank Capra hero in Bulworth. Rules Don’t Apply feels like his most autobiographical film to date as he showcases the Hollywood he grew up in and how it might have felt like to uproot himself to this town of different values from his own. This is a charming romantic comedy with that unconventional dash that makes Beatty such a notable director in the history of filmmaking. Playing Howard Hughes, his shadow is always apparent during the course of the film, using this eccentric billionaire as a jumping off point for this story between two young people in love.
The cute romance that develops between Alden Ehrenreich’s driver Frank and Lily Collins’s aspiring actress Marla is one fraught with conflict. Beatty’s screenplay takes advantage of the humour of the situation, along with the dramatic consequences. It’s lovingly portrayed, elevated by their performances, which would feel right at home in a classic Hollywood movie. They play a major role in the period authenticity of Rules Don’t Apply and it’s easy to be swooned by the both of them. Beatty uses Marla’s songwriting abilities to have music play a key role in their relationship. The original song “Rules Don’t Apply” is an instant and memorable charmer sure to make one hum it when leaving the screening. However, it’s also thematically important to Marla and Frank and even Hughes and their feelings towards each other.
In depicting Howard Hughes becoming more detached from the rest of the world, Beatty is able to create comedy out of this, mostly through the mystery of this man and his unconventional methods. However, the seriousness that comes with this and how his company is affected is also beautifully handled within the script. It’s clear the respect Beatty has for Hughes and the opportunity to play him was definitely something he must have dreamed up for a long time. His performance is equal parts hilarious and touching and Beatty never goes too far in portraying Hughes. His admiration for Frank and some of the people who work for him is also quite touching.
Beatty takes an unconventional approach in editing Rules Don’t Apply, mostly because he has three central stories to tell. The way the film jumps around may be bewildering to some, but it’s actually a part of its charm. The editing also seems to represent Hughes’s scattered mind as he tries to formulate many things at once. Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography also brings one back to that period in Hollywood history as do the vintage songs that pepper the soundtrack. For those who spend their Sunday afternoons watching Turner Classic Movies, this film is a dream come true in its ability to transport the viewer to that time and place.
Rules Don’t Apply is one of the most beautiful romantic comedies in years, a delightful throwback to when the genre was at its most charming. By having two devout religious characters as the leads, Warren Beatty not only plays around with the formula, he also draws on his own past. Throwing Howard Hughes into the mix adds to the film’s unpredictable nature. For those who frequently wonder why they don’t make movies like they used to, Warren Beatty has answered your prayers with all of the charm one would expect from this long gestating project.