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Rules Don’t Apply just shows that in a film, some rules should apply

Warren Beatty stars as Howard Hughes in Rules Don’t Apply, which Beatty wrote, directed and produced.

Francois Duhamel

2 out of 4 stars

Rules Don't Apply
Written by
Warren Beatty
Directed by
Warren Beatty
Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich, Ed Harris, Lily Collins

If you call your movie this, you're kinda asking for it. Some rules should apply. For example, characters should make a little sense, so when they behave in "unpredictable" ways, we can tell. But Warren Beatty, back in the director's chair after 18 years, has gone rogue.

In 1958 (the same year Beatty himself arrived in town), would-be starlet Marla (Lily Collins), along with her mother (Annette Bening), comes to Hollywood at the behest of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes (Beatty), who has girls stashed all over the hills. Despite strict rules against employee fraternizing, Marla falls for her chauffeur Frank (Alden Ehrenreich). Or does she?

Hard to tell, because the characters' emotions dart about like finches in a golden cage. There's a lot of activity and verbiage, and the actors and scenes are pretty. But there's no forward momentum.

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Beatty is infamous for shooting 30 takes of even simple scenes, to explore every emotional avenue. If at one point he had specific intentions, they appear to have gotten lost in all that spelunking. Perhaps one rule should have applied: Meandering is not the same as amusing.

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