Movie Review: “Rules Don’t Apply”
Release Date: November 23, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sexual material including brief strong language, thematic elements, and drug references).

The film “Rules Don’t Apply,” a convoluted biopic of the late billionaire industrialist Howard Hughes, marks Warren Beatty’s return to directing in 18 years.  Perhaps he should have waited for another project.

The title of the movie may also be said of its screenplay and choppy editing, both of which standout as, for much of the film, being beyond the norm.  Beatty is partially to blame for the script, as he wrote it based on a story of which he shares credit with Bo Goldman.  In fact, Beatty faces blame for just about the entire cinematic catastrophe, as he not only wrote and directed the film, but is also one of its 18 credited producers (too many chiefs?) and portrays Hughes on screen.

The story, set in Hollywood during the late 1950s and which Beatty has been toying with for many years, revolves around a young actress (Lily Collins) and her Hughes-employed personal driver (Alden Ehrenreich) as they develop a relationship and commiserate about their respective dealings with the eccentricities of Hughes.  That’s the core of the story, but this is a film that isn’t sure what it wants to be.  IMDB, the International Movie Database, lists its genre as: comedy, drama, romance.  It missed one category: turkey.

In fairness, the cinematography by Caleb Deschanel is impressive, as is Jeannine Oppewall’s production design.  There are some very talented supporting actors in the film, but they are reduced here to being no more than featured extras, which is a shame for the likes of Alec Baldwin, Candace Bergen, and Martin Sheen.  Even the talents of Mrs. Beatty, Annette Bening, and of the likeable Matthew Broderick cannot save “Rules Don’t Apply.”

While falling short of being as awful as the well-known 1987 Beatty film “Ishtar,” it certainly is in the neighborhood.  During its Thanksgiving weekend opening, “Rules Don’t Apply” found itself in eighth place, with a box office gross of an estimated $2.17 million over a period of five days.  The film now has the distinction of being the worst wide-release debut of the year.

I hesitate to even recommend it when it is ultimately released for home viewing.

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