Saturday 6 May 2017

Film Review: Rules Don't Apply

Rules Don’t Apply is the cinematic equivalent of a 120-minute long raspberry noise.

After being scouted by eccentric movie tycoon Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty), small town beauty queen and aspiring actress Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) moves to Los Angeles hoping to hit the big time.

It’s here she meets Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), a charming driver in the employ of Hughes who is torn between his plain-as-day attraction to Marla, his fiancĂ©e back home in Fresco and strict Methodist beliefs. Their romance is tested by Hughes’ lack of tolerance for employee fraternisation, not to mention a series of increasingly absurd events that pull the pair and their careers in polarising directions. 

After sitting on the sidelines for a 16 years, Rules Don’t Apply is supposed to be Beatty’s much-lauded return to Hollywood; as well as playing an aging and slightly demented Howard Hughes, he also serves as writer and director for this meandering and miserable misfire that is about as entertaining as a plane crash.

The main issue with Rules Don’t Apply is that it assumes the viewer is already familiar with Howard Hughes and his lengthy list of achievements and eccentricities. If you don’t have that foreknowledge, you’re left to despair as the film skips and jumps through A-plots, B-plots and enough subplots to fill out an entire Scrabble board.

The screenplay really struggles to find a coherent thread at which to pull; is the film a tongue-in-cheek lampoon of classic Hollywood in the same vein as Hail, Caesar!, a straight-laced biopic of Howard Hughes in the style of The Aviator or a swooning romance set against the backdrop of moviemaking like La La Land? In attempting to find success in all of these areas, Rules Don’t Apply excels at none of them. 

Credit where credit is due, Collins and Ehrenreich both give affable performances that momentarily transcend the swathes of aimless dreck masquerading as a plot. The former is a bubbly and excitable onscreen presence and the latter gets plenty of chances to practice his sexy smoulder. And there are some moments that raise a light chuckle; if you want to see young Han Solo crash through a glass side table and then jizz in his pants, go right ahead and watch Rules Don’t Apply

However, charming leads, a string of cameos (Alec Baldwin, Steve Coogan, Ed Harris) and authentic period detail can only get you so far when everything else is wholly hackneyed or haphazardly strung together. The first 30-45 minutes in particular are so tonally choppy that they feel like a chimpanzee could have edited them. 

All told, there were a grand total of four people in my Thursday evening screening of this film and two of them walked out midway through. If that doesn’t give you an accurate appraisal of Rules Don’t Apply, I don’t know what will.

The Verdict: 4/10

Maybe Warren Beatty should just stick to what he is good at - ruining the Oscars. Safe to say I didn't like Rules Don't Apply. It's overlong, convoluted and just darn boring.

Rules Don't Apply is in cinemas across Australia now.

This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.

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