In theory, "Rules Don't Apply" is about a couple of young people--Alden Ehrenreich, a driver for Hughes, and a would-be starlet played by Lily Collins, who moves out to Los Angeles with her mother, who's played by multiple Oscar nominee Annette Bening, Beatty's wife. Collins' character is one of 28 young women being groomed as starlets by Warren Beatty's Howard Hughes, theoretically for a movie that he hopes to direct. There are talent classes; lavish parties and shots of vintage architecture; cars and clothing; a budding romance between the two young leads; and a sharp right turn into an age-inappropriate relationship between the heroine and Hughes, who is defined throughout the film's first third mainly as a disembodied voice on the telephone, like the way "Seinfeld' treated George Steinbrenner on "Seinfeld" and the comic strip "Doonesbury" depicted presidents.
But as Scout Tafoya's latest edition of "The Unloved," and one of my favorites, points out, "Rules Don't Apply" is mainly about the mystery and audacity of its writer, director and co-star, Warren Beatty, a man who's nearly as curious a figure as Howard Hughes. It makes sense that Beatty would have made his long-delayed return to filmmaking and acting with "Rules Don't Apply," playing the reclusive aviation magnate turned film producer.
Matt Zoller Seitz
Film critic and filmmaker.