Howard Hughes is one of the most eccentric and enigmatic figures of the mid 20th century, a man who became known as much for his recluse behavior as for his influence in the aviation industry. The subject has been an inspiration for Warren Beatty, who has returned to write, direct and star in this film based on the reclusive billionaire’s life.
Rules Don’t Apply, however, is not strictly a biopic on the life of Hughes, as the story centers around the romance of one of the pretty actresses Hughes would bring to Hollywood and sign to exclusive deals and the man who was assigned to drive her. The story itself about the romance between Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) and Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) is fictional, but many of the things done by Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty) comes from real-life anecdotes about Hughes.
Marla arrives in Hollywood with her Baptist mother (Annette Bening) looking to become an actress. She is assigned Frank as her driver with the knowledge that if there were any relations between driver and actress, the driver would be fired.
Still, the pair hit it off and Marla caused Frank to question his relationship with fiance Sarah (Taissa Farmiga).
Both Marla and Frank had hopes to meet Howard Hughes, but neither seemed to be getting their wish.
Meanwhile, Howard has been actively trying to ignore the world, particularly the banks who wanted to meet with him about his running of TWA. There is certainly signs as well that Hughes was beginning to slip into mental issues.
Rules Don’t Apply is a fun movie in many ways. I found it entertaining and I was engaged early on with the characters. Then, about midway through the film, it felt like it got lost in the story, losing focus on what the story was truly about, before recapturing it near the end.
The biggest issue was the romance between Marla and Frank. This relationship was seen at the beginning part of the film, but wound up separating the pair for much of the middle part of the movie. This did not make much sense. The first part of the film was so focused on these two characters with Howard Hughes as a supporting character only to flip it completely around about midway through. Marla disappeared after a tryst with Hughes and the film became about Hughes and the relationship with Hughes and Frank instead of about Frank and Marla. When she reappeared near the end of the film, Rules Don’t Apply found its story again.
There is a great cast here with such notable actors taking secondary roles such as Matthew Broderick, Candace Bergen, Martin Sheen, Paul Sorvino, Ed Harris, Oliver Platt, Alec Baldwin, Dabney Coleman and Steve Coogan among others. The list of actors is compelling. Alden Ehrenreich (as our soon to be young Han Solo) does a really strong job as Frank. Ehrenreich is a star in the making and you can see here what kind of a career this young man has in front of him. Lily Collins makes a good lead as well, showing some skills (including singing), and she has good chemistry with Ehrenreich, and maybe even more with Beatty.
Beatty is excellent as Howard Hughes, bringing the confusion and fear of Hughes to life. You understand why Hughes acts the way he does. He has daddy issues, and he has fears over losing what he has earned in his life as he realizes that his life is unraveling.
Rules Don’t Apply did get a little long, especially when the film lost focus on what the story they were telling actually was. It has really good performances and looks great as a period piece of the 1960 Hollywood. Beatty has a decent film for his return.