Rules Don’t Apply struggles to find what it is it wants to do. The film has a potentially strong romance that felt like it was the B-story behind the character study of Howard Hughes. If it’s a character study that is. Then again, it could be a failed attempt at a love triangle. I’m actually not exactly sure what I was supposed to take away from the film, but it did have some solid performances. In the end, I give Rules Don’t Apply the Not a Total Waste of Time rating.
Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) is a driver for the mysterious Howard Hughes’s actresses and hopes to start a subdivision of sorts in Los Angeles. He meets Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) and clearly takes a liking to her. There are many complications keeping them from being together, mainly the rules about drivers dating the contracted actresses. Howard (Warren Beatty) takes an interest in both of these young employees and ultimately causes more pain than not.
The highlight of the films are the three main performances. Collins and Ehrenreich are great together and alone. I’m not familiar with Collins as much as I am super invested in Ehrenreich. His performance earlier this year in Hail, Caesar! was probably the highlight of that film as well. He will later be playing the young Han Solo in the anthology film. Luckily, everything I’ve seen of his has been fantastic. Collins is great along side him and has some very powerful performances in the film. My favorite is the second meeting she has with Howard Hughes.
Beatty is great as Howard Hughes
Beatty and Collins have a comedic and slightly tragic second meeting. She’s drinking for the first time and the scene will end with another first for her. The dialogue in the scene is entertaining and Collins really shines. Beatty was great in the movie that he also directed. His portrayal of Hughes is much different from DiCaprio’s in the Aviator. However, the film felt off as a whole.
The editing in the beginning of the film felt very erratic. A scene would end immediately after a character would finish speaking. It wouldn’t cut to something connected, at least not clearly, from there but to another scene that would end abruptly. This style changes after the opening few scenes, but it was slightly jarring. It was likely for us to get to know the characters quickly, but it felt ineffective.
Stop starting at the end and then jumping to the beginning!
The movie also did what a lot of movies are doing, which is starting at the end then jumping back and working our way to that moment. There is usually no reason for it other than making an end point the plot that they don’t earn. The plot that is alluded to at the opening sequence is an autobiography being written claiming that Hughes is suffering from Dementia. However, it’s not really the focus of much of the film. It’s clear that Hughes is off, but not completely out of sorts as the film goes on. Yet, when we arrive at that moment it doesn’t feel like the movie has given us enough to have gotten there. In fact, that moment isn’t really about Hughes as much as it will be about Frank.
Ultimately, the film felt like it was probably half an hour too long. The performances were able to keep me interested, but I felt like I walked away with not a whole lot. Matthew Broderick, Martin Sheen, and Candice Bergen along with a few other actors have small, but important roles in the film. Maybe the story was just too erratic for my tastes, but I was definitely disappointed.