Movie Review: Rules Don’t Apply

Set in late 1950s Los Angeles, Rules Don’t Apply is a fictional portrait of Howard Hughes in his later years. Wearing two hats—director and actor—Warren Beatty skillfully captures the eccentricities, OCD habits, and neurosis of the reclusive billionaire.

Appearing primarily in shadows, Hughes interacts with a revolving door of characters played by several A-list actors, among them Matthew Broderick, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Candice Bergen.

The main plot involves a fictional love triangle with aspiring actress Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), chauffeur Frank Forbes (Alen Ehrenreich), and Howard Hughes. Several comedic scenes with Marla’s mother (Annette Bening) highlight the frustration experienced by the more than thirty young women who are anxiously awaiting their screen tests and first encounters with Howard Hughes.

Ignoring the rule that chauffeurs cannot have relationships with the actresses, Marla and Frank flirt and gravitate toward each other. But when Marla finally meets Hughes for his-and-hers TV dinners on folding trays, she becomes infatuated with him. And, in his weird, unconventional way, Hughes also shows interest. Complications ensue, and Marla disappears from the movie for a significant period of time. I would have liked more scenes with Marla and her mother.

At times, the movie rambles, veering in several directions. While some scenes—especially those involving intense cravings for banana nut ice cream and bizarre flights manned by Hughes—are comedic, others only skim the surface of the billionaire’s business problems and accusations of dementia by an unauthorized biographer.

An entertaining movie that has piqued my interest about Howard Hughes.


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