Rules Don’t Apply, rated PG-13
Starring Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick, Martin Sheen, Candice Bergen, Alec Baldwin
Austin Family Critical Rating: 4½ of 5
Austin Family Family-Friendly Rating: 3 of 5
Warren Beatty – the man behind Reds (1981), Heaven Can Wait (1978) and Dick Tracy (1990) and the star of Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) – has been absent from cinemas for 15 years. This year, he’s finally back with Rules Don’t Apply, a film in which he plays no less than billionaire and aviator Howard Hughes. (Beatty is also the writer, director and producer of the film.)
There’s been a greater, more expansive movie made about Hughes (Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio), but Rules Don’t Apply isn’t trying to be that kind of movie – this is a lighter, more contained film. Set in the 1960s, Rules Don’t Apply is mainly focused on the romance between Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), a driver for Hughes, and Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), one of the actresses signed under contract for an upcoming Hughes production. Despite working for the tycoon, neither Frank nor Marla have actually met Hughes at the beginning of the picture, and when they finally do, they learn quickly that Hughes forbids any kind of romance among his employees.
The charm of the movie comes from a brisk, jaunty pace – you get the sense that Beatty had a good time making this film. Scenes move quickly and, particularly in the first third of the movie, the number of famous faces and amount of quick information is almost overwhelming. It feels like a grand old Hollywood production, packed with vivid period detail and outstanding actors (Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Annette Bening, Candice Bergen, Matthew Broderick, Martin Sheen and Oliver Platt among them).
Will younger audiences have much interest in this film? It’s hard to say. Rules Don’t Apply has two terrific younger leads in Ehrenreich (who was recently cast as Han Solo in the Star Wars spin-off) and Collins, but I don’t know if audiences will be familiar with them yet (it’s worth noting that Ehrenreich was absolutely hilarious in this year’s Hail, Caesar!). If Rules Don’t Apply hasn’t taken off at the box office, I fear it’s because the onslaught of heavily marketed franchise material has scared older audiences away from the cinemas. There’s the possibility many people simply don’t know there’s a new Warren Beatty movie in current release.
There’s some mature content in here that might not make Rules Don’t Apply the best choice for young children, but I don’t imagine they’re the target audience here. For teenagers interested in film, however, I’d highly recommend seeking out Rules Don’t Apply as a starter course for a major American filmmaker and actor who is rarely on the big screen. And, while you’re at it, let your parents know there’s a new Warren Beatty movie out!
Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.