“Rules Don’t Apply” – a movie review by Gary Chew
Do eccentric billionaires bore you like they do me? That’s a question I always mutter to myself when I’m reminded of one of those kind of guys, especially if his name is Howard Hughes.
Rules Don’t Apply, Warren Beatty’s latest effort in the art of cinema, did that for me at a recent, special screening. Beatty himself plays Hughes; and a whole host of other well-known screen faces appear in this loony, erratic, flippant but, most of the time, tiresome send-up about the more-than-off-center rich dude, born in Houston, who wowed the business world in oil drilling, aviation and defense contracting. Oh, did I mention Hughes also was a Hollywood movie producer and director?
I became abundantly aware of Hughes as a mere lad one day when my Dad, one of my Left Coast uncles and I ran into a mid 1940s traffic jam in Long Beach. The stall was due to Hughes’ Spruce Goose. With wings folded, the Goose was being trucked down an L A area thoroughfare. I remember seeing the likeness of Jane Russell … her blouse in tact … near the nose of the fuselage brandishing an admonition to watch a-soon-to-open Hughes film called The Outlaw: the worst Western I’ve ever seen.
But not to digress further: Rules Don’t Apply is a stretched two-hourish litany of numerous Hughes idiosyncratic moments that, had all of them them put into the script, would find me still at the theater with other movie freaks watching the darned thing. The weird stuff about Howard Hughes is hoisted onto either a made up or maybe not so made up blossoming romance between one of Hughes’ limo drivers named Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), a Methodist from Fresno and Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), a beauty queen and devout Baptist from New Front, Virginia.
Marla has been syphoned down to the level of making the big time via the promotional talents and entertainment connections of one Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. But she’s pure: no intercourse yet, and no booze. Ms. Collins was fathered by one of my favorite rock idols, Phil Collins. But Lily looks more like Liz Taylor … really. She’s so lovely and boasts larger … uh … eyebrows than those on the forehead above that fabulous face of Ms. Taylor’s. Beatty never stops playing to the wings for his Hollywood buddies.
Ehrenreich, whom you’ve seen in the Woodman’s excellent Blue Jasmine, could be mistaken for Lennie DiCaprio’s younger brother … but with a narrower head, even wider jaw … and what looks to be a slightly receding line (already) of hair … close to the color of the mega star’s. Such beauty.
Rules is one of those movies I call a “Jimmy Durante film”: everybody wants to get into it, like Alec Baldwin, Matthew Broderick, Ed Harris, Martin Sheen, Oliver Platt, Amy Madigan, Candace Bergen, Steve Coogan, Paul Sorvino, Michael Badalucco and if that isn’t enough, Dabney Coleman. Oh my God, I forgot Annette Bening, she plays Marla’s momma. Beatty will never forgive me.
The only movie about Howard Hughes I’ve ever much cared for was the one Jonathan Demme directed in 1980. Jason Robards plays Howard, but lots of it takes place out on the road in the Nevada desert after a Hughes motorcycle accident where Melvin helps the tycoon. If you haven’t seen Melvin And Howard, you’d better.
Warren Beatty is also a Hollywood revolutionary and he, like Martin Scorsese (Aviator), must trod the steps taken by the indefatigable Hughes. Beatty has done big things on the silver screen. He’s a fine actor and director. His writing doesn’t flabbergast me; but hey, listen to this: Beatty is about eight or nine years older now than when Hughes died at 71 on a private flight from Managua to Las Vegas in 1976. Beatty’s looking almost as fine as a fiddle for being as old a movie icon as he is. Keep it up Warren, you dawg.
I think I’ll have to become accustomed to being bored by eccentric billionaires. If boredom is the only punishment to be brought … then I’m game.