Hollywood legend and legendary playboy Warren Beatty has used his fame to direct and produce a clutch of daring movies, all of which would have languished without him. The latest is this long-gestating passion project about the eccentric pioneer and director Howard Hughes – another a noted playboy.
It may be that Beatty was born to play Hughes, but ‘Rules Don’t Apply’ has a few unfortunate strikes against it – not least of which is Martin Scorsese’s epic 2004 biopic, ‘The Aviator’, which covers similar ground. Beatty goes heavy on the germophobic Hughes’s wildness – flinching in the presence of children, refusing to answer questions and, most disturbingly, conducting his affairs from behind a curtain like some ominous figure in a David Lynch nightmare.
Distractingly, the film foregrounds the romance of two young people: a secretly talented starlet under contract to Hughes (Lily Collins) and a clean-cut limo driver with business ambitions of his own (Alden Ehrenreich). Their flirtation – strictly prohibited by the boss’s code of conduct – is sweet but deeply disposable; it’s more fun to luxuriate in Beatty’s unhinged turn. ‘Rules Don’t Apply’ flies along at an inhuman speed; the edits are sharp, skipping years at a time, and the production values are unshowy. Like everything this star-director has done, the film is deceptively smart. It’s just a little too late to the game.