Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich in “Rules Don’t Apply”; Francois Duhamel/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (NEW YORK) — Warren Beatty stars in and directs this stylish, though innocuous and intermittently feckless fantasy in which he plays eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes.
It’s 1958, and beauty queen Marla Mabrey, a virgin from Virginia, comes to Hollywood, her mother (Annette Bening) in tow, to become a studio girl for Hughes. Frank Forbes (the future Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich), is Marla’s limo driver, as all of Hughes’ girls have their own drivers. Frank is hoping to meet Mr. Hughes in an effort to convince the billionaire to help him invest in some real estate.
The chemistry between Marla and Frank is palpable. Besides being young and great-looking, they share a passion for God. But there are a couple of obstacles, the first being Frank’s childhood sweetheart and fiancée. The second: Mr. Hughes strict rule prohibiting his employees — particularly his drivers — from hooking up with his studio girls.
Although Beatty plays Hughes, this is Collins’ and Ehrenreich’s movie. Both turn in strong performances, but it’s Collins’ transformation that impresses the most. And that’s not to diminish Eherenreich’s performance — he oozes charm and has natural comedic timing.
Beatty’s efforts here are, on occasion, admirable. He’s given us a throwback film with an original take on the good old-fashioned love triangle. Sadly, though, there are points at which trying to keep your eyes open takes as much effort as it did for Hughes to get his flying wooden boat, the “Spruce Goose,” in the air. There’s plenty of chemistry to go around here and the characters are likable enough, but the stakes or consequences never seem high enough, or realistic.
When Rules Don’t Apply is good, it’s a delight. When it’s not, you just wish you were somewhere else.
Two-and-a-half out of five stars.
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