“RULES DON’T APPLY” My rating: C
126 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13
If “Rules Don’t Apply” is a comedy, why aren’t we laughing?
If it’s a romance, why don’t we feel something?
If it’s a tragedy, why don’t we care?
Warren Beatty’s latest feature as writer/director (his fifth, and the first since “Bullworth” in 1998) might be charitably described as a highly polished question mark.
It’s good looking, competently acted and mildly affable. Basically it’s two hours of narrative noodling that never scores an emotional or intellectual point.
Ostensibly the film provides an opportunity for Beatty to tackle the character of real-life billionaire Howard Hughes — though Beatty doesn’t make an appearance as the nutjob recluse until nearly 40 minutes into the movie.
“Rules…” is, at its most basic level, a love triangle involving Hughes and two of his employees.
Marla (Lily Collins), a virginal Virginia beauty queen, has come to late-‘50s Los Angeles after being signed to an acting contract by the mysterious Mr. Hughes. (In addition to his oil and aviation interests, Hughes is a Hollywood producer.)
Lily is but one of two dozen aspiring actresses stashed by Hughes in posh digs all over LaLa Land. These stars of tomorrow — or harem members , if you will — are given a weekly stipend, acting and dance classes, and are ferried around town by a small army of limousine drivers whose behavior is strictly proscribed (no canoodling with the girls, no talking about Mr. Hughes’ business, etc.).
Marla and her driver, Frank (Alden Ehrenreich), have enough in common — including a shared religiosity — that Marla’s hovering mom (Annette Bening, aka Mrs. Warren Beatty) warns her daughter against any attraction to the handsome young chauffeur. (more…)