Rules Don’t Apply is, at its core, a story about love and people. Featuring a formidable cast and plenty of ’50s charm, can legendary director Warren Beatty craft a cohesive cinematic journey with his experienced, but shaky hands?
Set in Hollywood during the late ’50s, Rules Don’t Apply is a throwback to the days of true love and fedoras. Not satisfied with just directing the movie, Rules Don’t Apply also marks Beatty’s return to a feature role for the first time in 15 years. The movie revolves around a strange love triangle between real-life entrepreneur Howard Huges (Beatty), innocent up-and-coming actress Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) and her driver Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich).
The movie exudes the lively spirit of the ’50s and ’60s thanks to its smart cinematography, believable characters and authentic visual representation of the era. Further elevated by a supporting cast with such greats as Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin and Annette Bening — the biggest problem with Rules Don’t Apply is that it tells too many stories.
Lilly Collins performance as Marla immediately grabs you, a young and naive actress thrown into the glitz and glamour and temptation of Hollywood. The blossoming love between Marla and Frank is something viewers can root for, as the two star-crossed lovers make sense of their taboo relationship. Marla, a devout Baptist from Virginia, and Frank, a soon-to-be married chauffeur barred from canoodling with his clients, have the sort of chemistry that develops organically through the movie’s first half.
The presence of Howard Hughes, a billionaire aviation-entrepreneur with a penchant for housing beautiful actresses to cast in movies — and perhaps in bed — is always a threat to the two lovers. And while Beatty plays his role to perfection, the movie’s momentum is shattered as the two young lovers take a backseat to Hughes’ deteriorating mental health.
See, the movie has so many powerful elements. Every character is real, they’re flawed: Marla is sweet and a prude, unprepared for Hollywood’s cutthroat nature. Frank is a good, hardworking man trapped in morale dilemmas. And Hughes is the big boss, losing a grip on his empire due to his poor health.
And while I can go on-and-on about the movies incredible qualities, the truth is they never quite come together. The sudden change in narrative, a plot that becomes increasingly difficult to keep up with and a sloppy “quick-fix” ending shatter what could have been a sure-fire Oscar-contender.
As a visual throwback and an honest depiction of humanity’s imperfections, Rules Don’t Apply is movie magic. But as a cohesive story, it is far too difficult to digest. So despite my admiration for the elements of life Beatty injected into this film, it honestly isn’t a great cinematic experience.
*The Shak Rating System:
5 - Film of the Century
4.5 - Acadamy Award-Worthy
4 - (One of) The Year’s Top Movies
3.5 - Worth Price of Admission
3 - See it on a Tuesday
2.5 – Let Someone Else Buy Your Ticket
2 - Maybe After a Few Drinks
1.5- Are You Sure You Have Nothing Better to Do Tonight?
1 - The Movie Equivalent of a Zombie Bite