“It’s Hollywood, 1958. An aspiring young actress, songwriter, beauty queen and devout Baptist virgin, Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), and her young, ambitious, deeply religious Methodist chauffeur, Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), both struggle with the absurd eccentricities of the wildly unpredictable billionaire they work for, Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty). Their attraction to each other not only puts their religious convictions to the test, but also defies Hughes’ #1 rule: no employee is allowed to have any relationship whatsoever with a contract actress. Hughes’ behavior draws them both deeper into his bizarre world, and their lives are changed. Written and directed by Beatty (with a story by Beatty and Bo Goldman), Rules Don’t Apply also stars Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick, Alec Balwin, Candice Bergen, Ed Harris, Oliver Platt and Martin Sheen.”
It’s great to see Warren Beatty back at it after a long hiatus from the silver screen. His choice of films to propel him back into the limelight is one he has spent decades trying to get made, a film about Howard Hughes. However, the thing is, it’s hard to tell just what the focus of the film truly is.
The film begins focusing on Marla Mabrey and Frank Forbes, both having just moved to L.A. and become recent employees of Hughes. Although Frank is engaged to his high school sweetheart back home, his attraction to Marla is instantaneous, and the two become fond of one another as they wait for their opportune time to actually meet their recluse employer who has promised to meet both of them at his earliest convenience.
Though this forbidden romance is the drive of the film in the first act, it quickly changes as they both become involved with Hughes. At the beginning, Hughes doesn’t pay much attention to Marla, only a passing interest as his paranoia about TWA increases. He does, however, find Frank to be a moral and religious man with strong convictions, and chooses him to be his right-hand-man. As relations between Frank and Marla come to a bitter head, Marla finds comfort in a fleeting promise from Hughes, which she keeps secret from Frank. It is at this point the film shifts focus for the remaining screen time. We dive head-first into the eccentricities and dealings with Hughes, as Frank struggles to keep up with his compulsive mood swings and demands.
Despite a very brief resolution of this romance at the end of the film, the film does what I can imagine Howard Hughes did best in his life. Take it over and make everything about him. Nevertheless, there are quite a few stories in Rules Don’t Apply, and they aren’t badly written by any means. The stories are good, engaging, and portrays a different age of Hollywood beautifully. There is an amazing cast of characters that help Beatty along his film, and it is great to see such a stellar cast even in the smallest of roles.
Rules Don’t Apply isn’t a great film, but it’s not a bad film. It’s hard to not appreciate this as a vessel for Warren Beatty, with such a legendary history he finally steps back into the spotlight with something that is important to him. It’s hard not to compare it to Scorsese’s Aviator, but Beatty’s portrayal of Hughes doesn’t focus mainly on the eccentricities of the famous billionaire, but also the interactions and relationships with the people around him. This really isn’t a film about the history of Howard Hughes’ accomplishments, but his the world he has created around him and the people in it.
Rules Don’t Apply is presented in High Definition Widescreen 1080p 1.85:1. The transfer looks quite good, with no defects noticed throughout the film. Colors are a little muted, which work quite well for the time period it is portraying.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. There are no issues or problems noticed with the track. The majority of the sound is going to be coming through the center channel with dialogue, but it does utilize the surrounds in some of the more high-budget scenes such as when Howard Hughes is flying. Levels sound good for the most part, but there are a few scenes that are a bit hard to hear the dialogue due to the surrounds.
There aren’t many special features on this disc, but you do get a short featurette of the making of Rules Don’t Apply. In this we get to hear from Beatty, as well as a lot of the actors involved in the making of the film who share their memories of getting the film made over a long period of time. On this set you’re going to see:
- This is Rules Don’t Apply
- Music Video: The Rules Don’t Apply Performed by Lily Collins
- Theatrical Trailer
The Rules Don’t Apply may not be Beatty’s best work, but hopefully it is something that will bring him back to making movies again. For what it is, the film can be enjoyable if you have no expectations. I for one respect Beatty’s passion for wanting to get what he wanted on screen. He’s been so selective of the film’s he’s done, it is great to see a new release from him. Hopefully the trend will continue and we will see more from him in the future.