JAMIE EAST AT THE MOVIES
Warren Beatty plays infamous director in what should have been a compelling biopic
Rules Don’t Apply
(12A) 127 mins
WARREN BEATTY’S vision of Howard Hughes as an eccentric megalomaniac is an enjoyable look at a country on the brink of sexual revolution.
However, it sometimes ends up chasing its own tail.
Lily Collins plays Marla Mabrey, part of a conveyor belt of actresses waiting for their screen test and big break from the elusive Hughes.
The future Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich, is the spoken-for Frank, her assigned driver.
Both are committed Christians, both have the absolute horn for each other.
Problem is, faffing around with actresses is strictly forbidden by Hughes — unless he is the faffer.
This isn’t a straightforward biopic.
Most events (and characters) are completely fictionalised but rumoured to be based on real events — Beatty himself arriving in Hollywood a strict Methodist (though clearly not lasting long) — so it’s occasionally difficult to work out what you’re watching.
The truth of the movie is often found in his portrayal of Hughes.
His obsessions and tics and meanderings are all believable and well documented, alongside some real moments of madness, including a fixation with banana ice cream in particular.
The cast is, as you’d expect with a Warren Beatty film, exemplary.
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Collins, despite having eyebrows not a single casting director would have taken seriously in 1958, is brilliantly cast and if Ehrenreich is half as believable playing Solo next year, we’re in for a treat.
There is real delight in the cameos and minor roles, too.
Annette Bening steals every scene as Marla’s mother, there’s Matthew Broderick (where’s he been?), Alec Baldwin . . . the list goes on.
Special mention to Steve Coogan who, as a terrified pilot, almost steals the entire film with just one facial expression.
But this is Warren’s baby.
Every time he’s on screen the film lifts and leaves you wanting him to stay for the duration.
This is the real problem I had with the movie, aside from some fairly unbelievable character developments — would a devout Christian cast aside religion so suddenly?
How does a single working mother afford a plane ticket to Nicaragua in the early Sixties?
This should have been a compelling Hughes biopic.
That’s not to say the story of Marla and Frank isn’t interesting or endearing.
It explores attractive subjects, it’s just they didn’t need to be thrown together in the same movie.
An easy and enjoyable watch, thanks to Beatty’s performance and eye — but a muddled one.