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Rules Don't Apply


Stars: Warren Beatty, Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, Alec Baldwin, Annette Bening, Haley Bennett, Candice Bergen, Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, Steve Coogan, Taissa Farmiga, Ed Harris, Megan Hilty, Amy Madigan, Oliver Platt, Paul Schneider, Martin Sheen, Paul Sorvino

Director: Warreb Beatty

Scorsese’s The Aviator, which charted the early life and career of famed flier and Hollywood legend Howard Hughes, was garlanded with Oscars and critical praise.

This time, however, Beatty’s intriguing portrait of the seriously strange billionaire in the late 1950s in which he plays Hughes and also doubles as screenwriter (with Bo Goldman) and director has been critically hammered and joins Town & Country and Ishtar as box-office flops.

While those two films definitely deserved their critical and audience, in my view the same does not apply to this long but entertaining biopic which took Beatty some 40 years to bring to fruition.

The opening quote, “Never check an interesting fact” attributed to Hughes neatly spares the storyline from accusations of fiction rather than absolute accuracy.

And, interestingly while patently dominating the movie with his version of Hughes, Beatty uses the rocky romance of aspirant actress and Baptist virgin Collins who has come to Hollywood to audition for Hughes’s RKO and ambitious driver (and also a Hughes employee) Ehrenreich to illuminate the increasingly strange behavior of their mutual employer, catalysed by the company rule that employees do not date.

It doesn’t help, either, that Hughes turns out to fancy Collins himself and it doesn’t tae long for his codeine-obsessed interference to become increasingly egregious.

Beatty’s portrait of the relentlessly disintegrating Hughes may owe as much to screenplay as to biographical truth but that doesn’t really matter. What is on offer is a constantly entertaining riff of real life with Hughes taking second place in many ways to Beatty’s dissection of the relationship between aspirant actress Collins, tormented by her Baptist faith, and hormone-driven Ehrenreich, played against Hughes’ increasing weirdness.

The romantic duo does all that is required of them as supporting characters to Beatty’s central character and a strong supporting cast includes Annette Bening, Baldwin, Broderick, Sheen, Harris and Oliver Platt. Unfortunately Beatty allows Coogan to get away with yet another self-indulgent characterisation that I found to be a tad less entertaining than haemorrhoids.

Beatty (excellently served by cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and production designer Jeannine Oppewall) attractively recreates period Hollywood populated by vintage cars and ego-inflated industry inhabitants (with Collins commenting that Warners are “The King of Hollywood” and Hughes taking the gloss off the essentially fake Empire of Filmland by noting that “VD is up seventy five per cent in Los Angeles” and offering the useful advice “Never trust anybody”.

Including himself apparently, since he is billed below a performing dog in the end credits.

Alan Frank

USA 2016. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour by de luxe.
126 minutes. not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 07 May 2017