Review: ‘Rules Don’t Apply’ in Beatty’s zany return

Warren Beatty stars as reclusive Hollywood eccentric Howard Hughes in his first movie in 15 years

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Warren Beatty isn’t concerned with the life story of Howard Hughes, he wants to tell the legend of Howard Hughes.

“Never check an interesting fact” is the quote — attributed to Hughes — that opens “Rules Don’t Apply,” and it’s a gauge of the liberties Beatty takes with the story of the famously reclusive billionaire mogul.

It doesn’t entirely forgive the film’s scattershot nature, but it does make it somewhat endearing. In the film, Beatty plays Hughes, and it’s clear he sees something of himself in the Hollywood playboy turned eccentric shut-in. (The film is Beatty’s first since 2001’s “Town and Country.”)

Beatty’s Hughes has a stable of girls stashed in up to 26 houses around L.A. whom he brings in for screen tests and may or may not ever meet. One of them, Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), is just in from Virginia and dreams of big screen stardom and slowly learns the way the town really works.

“Rules Don’t Apply” is mostly Marla’s story, and Collins is fully convincing in her arc from naïve newcomer to fully blossomed young woman. She falls for Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich, too bland to register), her driver, and has a bumbling, drunken encounter with Hughes himself.

Beatty, who wrote and directed the film, can’t quite settle on a road map, and oddly frames the story around Hughes’ famous debunking of a false biography written about him. But there’s a boyish charm to Beatty’s performance, and the film maintains a whimsical, lightly zany tone throughout.

It adds up to a Hollywood farce that stretches the boundaries of truth and shows sometimes the rules don’t apply.

(313) 222-2284


‘Rules Don’t Apply’


Rated PG-13: for sexual material including brief strong language, thematic elements, and drug references

Running time: 127 minutes