Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Rules Don't Apply

Like Jonathan Demme's Melvin and Howard, Warren Beatty's Rules Don't Apply pairs an elderly, reclusive Howard Hughes with a much younger person who's far from wealthy. But while Melvin and Howard's umami mix of poignant sweetness and pungent unpredictability accentuate both the complicated, often comic humanity of its main characters and the increasingly desperate unreality of the post-post-war American dream, Rules Don't Apply turns nearly every one of its characters and situations into tropes. Perhaps because Beatty grew up in the mid-century Hollywood the film is set in, his portrayal of Hughes has the overly polished feel of an anecdote that's been told too often.

At the film's start, Hughes is already a full-blown eccentric, spending much of his time in hiding even from his own staff. Yet Beatty offers no real insight into what informs this behavior, aside from references to Hughes's daddy issues; the man is a collection of bizarre habits and creepy obsessions punctuated by an occasional eruption of brilliance or charm. Similarly, practically the only things we get to know about the other two main characters, Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) and Frank (Alden Ehrenreich), are the conventional virtues that are presented as a stark contrast to Hughes's weirdness.

Read the rest in Slant Magazine

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