Rules Don’t Apply is a drawn-out and often clunky film that often pushes aside conventional narrative flow to present a years-long story of forbidden love and the power and influence of business and fame in 1950s America.
Director Warren Beatty’s latest work follows the relationships between American businessman and historical figure Howard Hughes, played by Beatty, and two of his young employees Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) and Marla Labrey (Lily Collins).
Forbes enters the company of Howard Hughes as a driver and aspiring businessman himself. Figuring the opportunity as an entryway into an esteemed and reclusive circle, he takes on the role willingly and submits himself to demands of punctuality and control around the actresses in Hughes’ employment.
At the same time into the fold comes Labrey, a reserved Virginian Baptist whose song-writing skills and beauty queen looks call her to Hollywood with promises of recognition and fame.
Predictably the excitability of the moment and the mutual attraction between the young pair draw them inexorably together – despite being forbidden by the man whose hands hold their futures.
The challenge of developing yet denying their relationship from those around them, especially Hughes, sets the scene for the remainder of the narrative.
Rules Don’t Apply is full of 50s-style character, but captures little of the 50s charm you might expect.
The script is dry and lacks real emotion except for one or two memorable moments. The characters are inescapably flat; Forbes and Labrey are a sweet pair taking their first major steps into a world, which threatens to engulf them with its speed and control of everything around them, but their relationship grows and recedes so often that it became frustrating for this viewer.
There are few surprises – just a long unexciting script gradually leading toward the decline of Hughes’ mental state and the largely uninteresting coupling of Forbes and Labrey.
You’ll not be shocked, scared or sold on much genuine emotion between any character and in the end may well find yourself more glad the film had finished than that you had watched it.
Beatty may have thought when writing, directing and producing this film that the rules didn’t apply. Unfortunately, the rules are often there for a reason.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
In cinemas now.