GFF Review: Rules Don’t Apply – Classic Hollywood With a Twist

Published

Warren Beatty

Warren Beatty

Felicia Bengtsson
Writer

Rules Don’t Apply will be released on March 10th

Warren Beatty – Hollywood writer, director and actor – returns to the screen after a 15-year hiatus with the romantic drama Rules Don’t Apply. Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich and Beatty star in the lead roles.

Set in the 1950s, the era of Hail, Caesar! and the films that inspired La La Land, Rules Don’t Apply centers around rising film star Marla Mabrey (Collins) who moves to Hollywood for a chance to meet and work for billionaire Howard Hughes (Beatty), and the forbidden relationship that develops between her and her driver Frank Forbes (Ehrenreich).

The film is promoted as a romantic drama, yet this is much more than a story about love. It is also a somewhat biographical account of Hollywood persona Howard Hughes: his eccentric character, daddy issues, gradual retreat from the public eye, and accusations of, quite frankly, having ‘lost it’. Moreover, it is about stardom and what it takes to make it big – particularly as a woman in a man’s world. Centered on controversial topics of sexual puritanism and the rise of feminism, Mabrey’s naïve and virtuous character struggles to navigate her way to the top.

Initially both funny and charming, the film takes an irrational and turbulent turn as the focus shifts entirely to Hughes’ character. While Beatty gives a captivating performance as the unpredictable and paranoid billionaire – as he literally hides in the dark from the world – the original story of Mabrey and Forbes becomes overshadowed. The obstacles Mabrey has to face seem quite unoriginal, and not enough space is given for Mabrey and Forbes’ relationship to flourish. A shame given Collins’ stand-out performance earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress.

Despite the ending being rather rushed and somewhat predictable, it is the film’s redeeming quality that ties the bizarre triangle drama together and brings back the film’s initial spirit.

Not to be overlooked is the array of prominent actors tied to the project. Alongside supporting roles played by Matthew Broderick and Annette Bening, the film is packed with notable cameos, ranging from Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen to Haley Bennett and Taissa Farmiga.

While Beatty’s much anticipated comeback is unlikely to live up to the high expectations placed upon it, it is not a film that should be readily dismissed. Regardless of the film’s lack of focus, it remains a star-studded celebration of old Hollywood.