Warren Beatty’s long-nurtured movie about notoriously eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes is fittingly odd. Set between 1958 and 1964, Rules Don’t Apply is a screwball romantic comedy of all things and revolves around Beatty’s Hughes and two of the young people on his payroll – Lily Collins’ aspiring actress, Marla Mabrey, and her ambitious driver, Frank Forbes, played by Alden Ehrenreich (the singing cowboy in Hail, Caesar!).
The neurotically reclusive Hughes keeps everyone in his orbit in a state of frustrated suspension, and the viewer could be forgiven for feeling the same. Yet with a little patience, the unfolding story becomes weirdly compelling. Beatty, an infamous control freak in his own right, is a good fit for Hughes in all his creepiness and charm, while Collins and Ehrenreich, brim full of ingénue eagerness, are perfectly cast.
Hughes’ maddening whims and caprices offer up some choice comic moments, with one hilarious scene showing the billionaire recounting an Al Jolson anecdote while piloting a plane through some terrifying spins and dives (the look of stiff-upper-lipped bewilderment and horror on the face of Steve Coogan’s RAF officer, the man sitting next to him in the cockpit, is priceless).
And the movie is very good, too, at evoking its era, capturing the tension in the air as prim and pious 1950s America braces itself for the imminent explosion of youth culture.
Certificate 12. Runtime 127 mins. Director Warren Beatty
Rules Don’t Apply debuts on Sky Cinema Premiere on 2 January. Available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital from 20th Century Fox.