Review: Rules Don’t Apply (2016)
Poor Warren Beatty. The man hasn’t made a movie since Town & Country all the way back in 2001 and now he’s come back 15 years later for a passion project he’s wanted to do ever since the 70’s and…no one saw it. When I went to see it in the theater, I was literally the only person there and it was the pre-show. I also work at a movie theater and, when I took tickets one time, only three people went to see it. It seems that, unfortunately, the world has forgotten about Warren.
That being said, I wish I could say this is an underrated movie, an instant classic, and it’s a shame more people aren’t going to see it. I want to see the guy, after having hid out for all these years, come back with a great movie, maybe even a masterpiece. Unfortunately, however, his new movie isn’t that great. To be fair, though, it’s not awful, it’s just…uneven.
The movie starts off well. The main characters, Frank and Mallory, were likable, mostly due to the chemistry of the actors playing them, Alden Ehrenreich and Lily Collins. They made a cute couple and it made me root for them to get together. Also I liked that there was a mystery surrounding Hughes, as we don’t see him for the first half hour and we only get glimpses here and there of what he’s like.
Unfortunately, the movie stops dead in its tracks once we actually meet Hughes. The big problem with this movie is that it wants to be both a romantic comedy about an aspiring actress and her driver and a character study of Howard Hughes. Honestly, the latter movie sounds a bit more appealing to me, but these two plots aren’t really balanced well as, once we meet Hughes, the romantic comedy the first 20-30 minutes of the movie was pretty much ends and it suddenly turns into a completely different movie about Hughes and how his behavior ruined his business and everyone’s perception of him.
What else doesn’t help is the editing and cinematography. The movie’s shot digitally and, I’m sorry, but I don’t think digital cinematography really works for period pieces. It just looks a weird, like were watching a youtube video with people dressed like their in another time period, rather than a movie set in that period. It’s the same problem I had with Trumbo and Cafe Society.
But, even if the cinematography wasn’t my cup of tea, the editing really hurt this movie. Many scenes are cut very abruptly and there are many scene transitions that feel awkward. For example, there’s one scene where Lily Collins’ character and Howard are talking about Lily’s screen test and, in the middle of the scene, it randomly cuts to a scene of Howard and a few business men in a room smiling and laughing…with no audio put in. And then it cuts back to their conversation. Another example is that, one time, their’s a second-long shot of Las Vegas during Christmastime set to a Christmas song that then abruptly cuts to Howard and Alec Baldwin on the phone.
Another thing I found off about this movie was the relationship between Lilly Collins’s character, Marla, and Howard. In the beginning, Collins’s character is absolutely smitten by Hughes, despite the fact that she never met him and she’s seen all the weird things he’s done (i.e. pay girls by dropping down their contracts, not talking to her personally, etc.) Then, when she finally meets Hughes, and has dinner with him in the dark, in his bedroom, and eating TV dinners, she STILL finds him charming and doesn’t question him at all. If you don’t you think that’s weird, it gets creepier because, at one point, she has a fling with Hughes. Yes, Lily Collins, whose 27, has an (albeit brief) onscreen romance with Warren Beatty, whose 79, meaning he’s old enough to be her Grandfather. I know May/December Romances are a common thing in Hollywood, and I know Howard had flings with a lot of women much younger than him but, in real life, he would’ve been in his late 50’s/early 60’s when this happened, as that’s when the movie was set, so to see him flirt, and later have a child, with an actress old enough to be his granddaughter doesn’t feel justified whatsoever and make it even slightly less creepy, as the age difference between the two wasn’t that huge in real life, so it just comes off as uncomfortable.
That being said, if there is one thing I can praise about the movie, it’s two things. The acting is good. Alden and Lily, like I said before, have chemistry. Alden, while he isn’t as good as he was in Hail Caesar, is also solid on his own. Hopefully, his Han Solo movie will make him a household name because he is talented. Also, Warren is also pretty good as Hughes and Matthew Broderick is surprisingly tolerable in the movie (with a few exceptions, I don’t usually like him).
Also, the movie has a lovely theme song:
Otherwise, though, this was a disappointing comeback for Beatty. I’m sure it could’ve been worse but, for a movie he’s been working on since the 1970’s, it could’ve been much better as well.