Saturday, November 18, 2017
Things To Do

Review: 'Rules Don't Apply' is mediocre, even with Warren Beatty's magnetism

RECOMMENDED READING


Rules Don't Apply is a sloe gin Hollywood cocktail without fizz, Warren Beatty's made-up trip down memory lane. The movie revolves around Howard Hughes, but it's really about Beatty, set in Hollywood when he sowed his oats with a vaguely familiar leading man at certain angles.

Certainly there are less appealing vanity projects out there. Rules Don't Apply is affably mediocre, even tolerable between brief pleasures. The movie's lone constant amusement is Beatty's madcap portrayal of Hughes, keeping aloft his Spruce Goose of nonromantic not quite comedy.

After 15 years off screen, Beatty hasn't lost anything in magnetism. He's still a complex listener, eyes searching behind a squint, realizing then almost covering up what he thinks. Playing Hughes gives this signature acting tactic a workout, jumbled as his thoughts can be. Beatty is wonderful in a movie seldom rising to his level, except with Jeannine Oppewall's luscious old Hollywood production design.

Much of Rules Don't Apply's attention gets diverted to RKO contract player Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), whose heartland purity earns the nickname "the virgin Marla." She's escorted by her prudish mother (Annette Bening) who knows Hughes' reputation with starlets. They await a meeting with Hughes to set up a screen test.

Marla's driver is Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), who also wants to meet Hughes to present a surefire real estate proposition. The tycoon has a strict no-dating policy for his employees, unless he's involved. Naturally, this rule will be skirted by Marla and Frank, with complications that won't be spoiled except its one fabrication too far.

"Never check an interesting fact," reads a title card, a quote attributed to Hughes, this movie's version of John Ford's print-the-legend code. Except the "facts" presented in Rules Don't Apply generally aren't interesting, refutable by anyone who saw The Aviator or The Hoax. Some are too inside Hollywood to notice but others are glaring for a movie set in 1964.

Beatty's screenplay jumbles decades and touchstones, making Jane Russell's bra in The Outlaw (1943) into a pressing topic and Clifford Irving's bogus 1972 Hughes biography into a key plot device. Hughes' famed Spruce Goose airboat (1947) figures in, as does his 1946 air crash in Beverly Hills. Too many chronology cheats to mention.

Each begs a question: With all this material, this high level of nostalgic design and Beatty's fascinating portrayal, why not just make a fanciful Howard Hughes biopic? The world and the man are big enough for two, and The Aviator didn't nail the later days that Beatty is perfect to play.

At times, Ehrenreich resembles Splendor in the Grass-era Beatty yet doesn't muster much beyond smoulder. There's a scene in which Hughes carefully directs his body double's hair styling, making the resemblance perfect. That's what Beatty does with Ehrenreich, playing a version of himself. Just as the real Beatty is guarded, not much is revealed about Frank.

Collins is an appealing presence, fine for Marla's ingenue rise but less so when dark clouds gather. She makes the character understandably desirable and believably chaste. Too much champagne leads to poor choices, both Marla's and Collins' clumsily acted drunk scene. Collins does possess a sweet singing voice on the title song but singing it three times is twice too many.

Easy to see why Beatty was smitten with Collins and with a reason to recreate a Hollywood culture long demolished then rebuilt shinier. Rules Don't Apply is a sincere valentine delivered insincerely, bypassing truth stranger than this tame fiction. As Ford would command: Just print the damn legend.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

 
Comments
Flo Rida coming to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg

Flo Rida coming to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg

In 2016, Flo Rida headlined a free postgame concert for the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium.Come January, he'll have the place all to himself.The Carol City hitmaker will top a show at Al Lang on Jan. 14. St. Petersburg. native Macy Kate will al...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Romano: Hunting for a deadly needle in the Seminole Heights haystack

Romano: Hunting for a deadly needle in the Seminole Heights haystack

During the day, you hear from the psychics and the kooks. The well-intentioned tipsters, and the unsolicited profilers. This is all part of serial killer spillover, a sort of cottage industry of macabre.It gets tougher at night when you’re hounded by...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Saturday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosXfinity: Ford EcoBoost 300 qualifying11 a.m.CNBCXfinity: Ford EcoBoost 3003:30 p.m.NBCSNCollege basketballMaryland-Eastern Shore at GeorgetownnoonFox SunBucknell at Maryland8:30 p.m.Big TenGolfPGA Europe: Tour Championship2:30 a.m.GolfPGA: ...
Published: 11/17/17
Christmas in downtown Tampa as Winter Village ice rink opens

Christmas in downtown Tampa as Winter Village ice rink opens

TAMPAWhile her teenage daughter and 6-year-old son glided effortlessly across the outdoor ice rink at Curtis Hixon Park on Friday, Danielle Engram, 35, stood nervously on her rented blades.This would be the lifelong Tampa resident’s first time on the...
Published: 11/17/17
Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

New York, it seems, doesn't have a monopoly on pizza-chomping rodents.Around 2:45 p.m. Friday, the Tampa Bay Times spotted a squirrel digging a nearly entire slice of pizza out of a trash can at 146 Second St. N in St. Petersburg. The squirrel hoppe...
Published: 11/17/17
With Harry Potter’s Christmas, Universal Orlando proves holidays are big business

With Harry Potter’s Christmas, Universal Orlando proves holidays are big business

ORLANDO — Christmas has finally come to Hogwarts at Universal Orlando in a new holiday attraction opening Saturday. In addition, Universal Studios has completely upsized its holiday parade with more Macy’s balloons, stunning floats and snowy effects ...
Published: 11/17/17
How to make a pie from scratch: filling ideas, decorating tips, crust recipes and more

How to make a pie from scratch: filling ideas, decorating tips, crust recipes and more

Perfect your crust. Try new filling recipes. Learn some decorating tricks. And prepare for the biggest pie day of the year: Thanksgiving.   From apple to thyme You’ve got the crust down. Now it’s time to choose a filling for your holid...
Published: 11/17/17
Thanksgiving 101: Everything you need to prepare for the big cooking day

Thanksgiving 101: Everything you need to prepare for the big cooking day

From appetizers to pies and everything in between, we’re here to help you put together a low-stress Thanksgiving spread. Ideas for sidesThese recipes go beyond the traditional, with a corn casserole, Brussels sprout salad and moreSee what our food ed...
Published: 11/17/17

Making it in America, Ybor(w/video)

The first cigar rolled in Tampa’s Ybor city in 1885 marked the beginning of one of Florida’s most famed immigrant enclaves.Since it was founded by a Spaniard who emigrated to Cuba in 1885, Vicente Martinez Ybor, Ybor City has morphed into one of Tamp...
Published: 11/17/17
Jeffrey Tambor accused of sexual harassment by his ‘Transparent’ co-star

Jeffrey Tambor accused of sexual harassment by his ‘Transparent’ co-star

"Transparent" actress Trace Lysette has accused actor Jeffrey Tambor of sexually harassing her on the set of the Amazon series.Lysette’s allegations mark the second time the star, who plays Maura Pfefferman on the critically acclaimed dramedy, has be...
Published: 11/17/17