Rules Don’t Apply, Warren Beatty’s much heralded return as a filmmaking force after an eighteen-year layoff, is a major disappointment considering the pedigree of both the subject matter and the creative talent behind the film. The film that was supposed to be Beatty’s long gestating project about the latter years of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes (nearly four decades in the planning) has somehow metamorphosed into a lackluster romantic comedy in which the Hughes character plays second banana in the onscreen proceedings.

The film’s main plot follows aspiring actress, Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins, daughter of pop star Phil Collins) as she auditions and wins a contract with the reclusive Hughes, who promises to put her in pictures as he did many actresses in his later years. Frank (Aiden Ehrenreich), the billionaire’s driver, has the hots for Marla but dares not to act on his feelings due to his boss’s ‘strictly business’ policy. If this plot sounds conventional and contrived that’s because it is and, as such, it serves to illuminate the lack of touch that Beatty, the filmmaker, seems to have with modern movie audiences.

Worse yet, from an editorial standpoint, the film seems to be in total chaos (four (!) editors are credited) as some scenes start and then end mid-scene with no connection to later plot points in the film. It also doesn’t help matters that Beatty plays around with timelines in a way that makes no sense. For example, Hughes pilots the famed plane, The Spruce Goose, in a scene depicted in the late 1950s when it’s common knowledge that the plane was retired about a decade earlier. I could go on but you get the point.

Beatty doesn’t show up as Hughes on screen until about the twenty minute mark and he’s compelling enough when he’s on screen but it’s not enough to make the film palatable for its 126 minute running time. Especially when he spends most of his time playing second fiddle to such a hackneyed romantic triangle plot as the one contained in the film. As a result, Rules Don’t Apply is a sad misfire and it leaves one hoping that perhaps Beatty will rethink making this film his cinematic swan song. We deserve a better end to such a varied career.

Photo: Lily Collins in Rules Don’t Apply

Questions or comments? Write Adam at [email protected].