AFI Fest 2016 World Premiere, TCL Chinese Theatre
When Warren Beatty arrived in Hollywood in the 1950s, he became part of the last generation of studio contract players, with movies like Elia Kazan’s Splendor in the Grass (1961). He went on to star in the Arthur Penn directed Mickey One (1965) and again with Penn in Bonnie and Clyde (1966) that co-starred Faye Dunaway. More hits followed including Shampoo (1975), co-starring with Goldie Hawn and Julie Christie.
In 1978, he co-directed and co-wrote the fantasy romantic comedy Heaven Can Wait, again co-starring with Christie. He produced and directed the Academy Award winning Reds (1981). He next directed Dick Tracy (1990) then the political satire Bulworth (1998).
Having its World Premiere at AFI Fest 2016, Rules Don’t Apply (2016) marks Beatty’s return to directing. At Hollywood’s historic Chinese Theatre, Beatty spoke of coming to town as a young man and renting a small apartment near Franklin, a few blocks away. Beatty was never under contract to Howard Hughes, but he knows the world of movie studios as much as anyone. He plays an aging Hughes who’s becoming more eccentric and out of touch by the minute. Beatty wrote the screenplay from a story he co-wrote with Bo Goldman [One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)]. Goldman wrote the screenplay for Melvin and Howard (1980), another movie about Hughes.
We don’t meet Hughes until midway through but we hear about him. As the story begins, it’s 1964 and reporters wait for a phone call from Hughes. The call will determine whether an author who claims to have interviewed Hughes met him or not. We’re introduced to a few key players then the scene flashes back to 1958 Los Angeles. Maria Mabrey (Lily Collins) is a Virginia girl from a religious home now under contract to Hughes. She’s chaperoned by mother Lucy (Annette Bening). Frank Hughes (Alden Ehrenreich) chauffeurs mother and daughter. Frank is repeatedly warned by his boss (Matthew Broderick) to keep his distance. He’s a regular church goer with a finance back home so the warning seems unnecessary. Complications ensue, needless to say.
Perhaps surprising given Hughes’ reputation, the most important relationship is a father and son bond that slowly develops between Howard and young Frank who has ambitions far beyond that of driver. Collins, the daughter of Phil Collins, performs the title song and has a lovely voice which is no surprise given her heritage. Ehrenreich doesn’t have the young Beatty’s slyness, but it works for the somewhat stiff striver Frank.
Beautifully shot by veteran lensman Caleb Deschanel, production designer Jeannine Oppewall and costume designer Albert Wolsky [Bugsy (1991)] successfully recreate Los Angeles in the 1950s and 1960s.