Magazine article Screen International

'Rules Don't Apply': AFI Fest Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Rules Don't Apply': AFI Fest Review

Article excerpt

The fascinating, tragic legacy of Howard Hughes has seduced Warren Beatty for 40 years, but his passion project doesn't quite suggest what captivated the actor and filmmaker for so long.

The romantic comedy-drama Rules Don't Apply is, by turns, fizzy and melancholy, nostalgic and clear-eyed, but it never builds to anything especially substantial, telling the story of two young people (Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich) who are drawn into the troubled billionaire's orbit in the late 1950s. There are hints of the old-school Hollywood tale that Beatty wants to weave, but it gets lost amidst an ineffective love story and some unconvincing plot twists.

Opening in the US on November 23, this is the first movie Beatty has directed in 18 years - and his first starring vehicle in 15 - so Rules Don't Apply will be an object of considerable curiosity for his fans. But this film could appeal to younger viewers, too, given the Collins-Ehrenreich romantic storyline. Still, modestly positive reviews and tepid word-of-mouth may keep this movie from becoming a must-see during awards season.

Ehrenreich plays Frank, a driver employed by Howard Hughes (Beatty) to drive his bevy of beautiful starlets around Los Angeles. The latest is the virginal Marla Mabrey (Collins), who has been flown in from Virginia by Hughes for a screen test. Because Hughes is such a recluse, though, it takes a while for Frank or Marla to actually meet the man, and in the meantime they begin to develop an attraction - even though Hughes expressly forbids his employees from dating.

Beatty, who also wrote the screenplay, has been developing a Howard Hughes project since the early 1970s, and in the interim two Oscar-winning biopics, Melvin And Howard and The Aviator, have been made about the entrepreneur. Rules Don't Apply focuses on the older Hughes, and the film fictionalises a good deal of its story while staying faithful to the billionaire's struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

At first, Hughes seems to be a peripheral figure as Frank and Marla dominate the film's foreground, the characters wrestling with their growing attraction while acknowledging its inherent complications. (Not only does their boss not allow romantic relationships, but Frank is technically engaged to his childhood sweetheart, who lives out of town. …

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