RULES DON'T APPLY (6 out of 10) Written and Directed by Warren Beatty; Starring Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Matthew Broderick, Martin Sheen, Annette Bening; Rated PG-13 for "sexual material including brief strong language, thematic elements, and drug references"; Running time 126 min; In wide release November 23, 2016.
In 1950s Hollywood, billionaire Howard Hughes broke the mold on. . . well. . . everything. He employed dozens of actresses on contract with RKO Pictures, many of whom never actually made a film. One of these is Marla Mabry (Collins)-- new in town, incredibly smart, and so devoutly Baptist she's never even had a drink. She's picked up at the airport by Frank Forbes (Ehrenreich), currently working as a driver for Hughes but who has dreams of other bigger partnerships with his new employer.
The two form a quick bond, and the most innocent of g-rated flirting occurs despite Hughes's strict policy against fraternization between his drivers and actresses. Hughes then arranges a series of dinners with Mabry, during which time they also become closer. Meanwhile Forbes is moving up in the organization and soon becomes one of Howard's closest confidantes, even in the face of his increasingly erratic behavior, paranoia, and drug abuse.
This love triangle continues as each of their relationships mature and grow, and definitely moves beyond g-rated flirting.
This isn't the first, nor will it be the last, film about the larger than life figure that was Howard Hughes. And while this never quite reaches the heights of some of the better films, it's still entertaining to see Beatty on screen again-- and he certainly packed the cast chock-full of talent.
But the film mostly focuses on the relationship between Forbes and Mabry-- and Howard Hughes is almost more a secondary character, even though all the action somehow revolves around him and his antics. Ehrenreich once again shows himself to be a charming and hugely underestimated talent (can't wait to see him as Young Han Solo!) If there's a weak link here, it's Collins-- or perhaps it's how underwritten her character is. One of the best moments of the film is when a despondent Mabry gets drunk for the first time ever and ends up throwing herself at Hughes. It's only here when she's able to cut loose that there's much sense of fun to her performance. Otherwise, she's only just kind of. . . there.
The film is a little too overstuffed and runs longer than it should. Beatty, like Hughes himself, needs a strong hand to help him rein in his excesses. A stronger editor or director might have been able to refocus and trim this film a little, which runs more than thirty minutes longer than it really should.
But despite these flaws, it's still a good time by sheer force of the acting talent and the larger than life character of Howard Hughes.
6 out of 10