Rules Don't Apply
GFF 2017: Warren Beatty returns for a kooky and star-studded take on the notorious Howard Hughes
Warren Beatty was once the alpha male of Hollywood: star, Oscar-winning director and the only person nominated for Academy Awards as actor, writer, director and producer for the same film twice (for Reds and Heaven Can Wait). Having done it all and finally settled down with Annette Bening to raise a family it seemed Beatty had retired. He hasn't acted in a film since 2001 and hasn't directed one since 1998's Bulworth. It comes, therefore, as something of a shock to see him aged 79, playing well-chronicled and notorious nutcase billionaire Howard Hughes, but it's pleasant to report that he still knows how to make a movie.
Naive small-town beauty contest winner Marla (Lily Collins) arrives in 1958 Hollywood with her rightly suspicious mother (Bening) and a contract at Hughes's motion picture studio. Like the two dozen other bored girls in his stable / harem she gets a snazzy villa, a strict set of rules to live by, and a personal driver, Frank (Alden Ehrenreich, continuing to demonstrate that he is The Real Deal). Marla and Frank are both religious, and both have ambitious hopes for their futures in the Hughes organisation, but their mutual attraction threatens to undermine their virtue and their plans. Eventually they cross paths with their elusive employer – Marla in an unnervingly bizarre boudoir encounter – and their entanglements in his eccentric schemes change their lives forever.
A host of welcome faces figure in the daft, fitfully disquieting, occasionally romantic goings-on (Alec Baldwin, Amy Madigan, Ed Harris, Candice Bergen, Martin Sheen, Matthew Broderick, Paul Sorvino, Oliver Platt and a miscast Steve Coogan), which is certainly fun. Nostalgia for Hollywood's Golden Age and Hughes's aviation exploits are handsomely evoked by such notable veterans as cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and costumer Albert Wolsky.
But for a filmmaker keen on making a Hughes biopic for over 40 years, and perhaps because Scorsese got there with a big dramatic epic before him, Beatty adopts a curiously kooky take on the mentally ill mogul's deterioration, with this tragi-comedy veering quite oddly in tone. Still, it is entertaining, engagingly acted, and something of an old-school treat.
Screening on Sun 19 and Mon 20 Feb as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2017. General release from Fri 10 Mar.