Rules like making a good movie
God freaking dammit. I thought I was safe until January, I thought I didn’t need to see another fucking terrible film until 2017 because the best films of the year comes out at this time of the year for Oscar consideration. And likely some poor sap thought that Hollywood legend, Warren Beatty, would net them an Academy Award…only they should have realized that Beatty was off his rocker and had no idea what the hell he was doing. So now we have Rules Don’t Apply, one of the five worst films to be commercially released in the United States in 2016.
I have no fucking idea how to give you a plot synopsis. This movie’s a freaking mess, but I’ll try to impart what I could figure out. Marla Maples (Lily Collins) comes to Los Angeles to become an actress working for Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty). Hughes employs several actresses but requires they subscribe to a strict rule system that must be obeyed by all employees regardless if they make any bloody sense or not. One of those rules being that Marla can’t drive in LA without a chauffeur, with Frank Fobes (Alden Ehrenreich, your future Han Solo) filling up the role. Fobes also obeys Hughes’ ridiculous rules in the hopes he could persuade his boss to invest in a real estate outfit Frank wants to manage. But the biggest rule of all (don’t have sex with other employees) gets put to the test between Frank and Marla who develop strong feelings for each other even though they both want their careers advanced through Hughes…who’s crazier than a shithouse rat.
There, I think I gave you a more coherent plot than how this fucking movie related. Right from the starting gate, you realize Beatty is atrocious as a director because its obvious he filmed too much goddamn set up establishing the characters of Frank, Marla, Hughes and about fifty or so side characters that get introduced and subsequently drop out of the film entirely. The plethora of material was obvious due to the fact that the film quickly jumpcuts to about thirty or so different scenes all within the space of about fifteen minutes. I know I tore Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice apart for the intensely sloppy editing, but I now feel like I owe Zack Snyder an apology because Rules Don’t Apply makes Warner Brother’s fiasco look as elegantly edited as The Godfather. For making me even think for a goddamn moment that Batman v. Superman wasn’t so bad, this film has earned a special place in hell. But I’m just getting warmed up, so buckle up.
Now my second paragraph may have implied that I understood what the movie was trying to impart, but keep in mind that it took me two goddamn weeks to write this freaking review partly because the movie was such a disorganized mess. You don’t get to the main romantic plot until you’re fifty minutes into the damn movie; before that you’re given introductions to several characters who you think will be important because they’re portrayed by major thespians like Martin Sheen, Hayley Bennett, Ed Harris, Matthew Broderick, Oliver Platt, Ron Perkins, Steve Coogan, Alec Baldwin, and Annette Bening. But *spoiler alert for anyone who actually gives a shit* all of these are basically cameos; they stop by, say a quick line and they’re out of the freaking movie. And the trailer was absurdly proud of its all-star cast that essentially rang as a who’s who of Warren Beatty’s contact list through six degrees of separation (of Kevin Bacon). And all of these cameos are presented in about fifteen or so subplots going on in the background to your main romance plot that do nothing but serve as examples as to how “crazy” Howard Hughes was.
Query: why the fuck do we need to know Hughes coo coo for cocoa puffs? We have The Aviator made by one of our greatest living directors, starring one of our greatest living actors portraying the historical figure, that presents a portrait of who Hughes was and flawed a life he lived. Why the fuck does this movie need to exist when Scorsese’s flick is only 12 years old? And don’t give me that Spider-man recasting nonsense, NOBODY gives a fuck about Howard Hughes in 2016…or even 2011 when pre-production began on this disaster.
Speaking of which, I was incredibly surprised to see in the credits (because I’d be damned if I was going to walk out of this movie before it finished, this shit would not beat me) that there were about 10 or so producers financing this thing. I checked Wikipedia and was shocked to find SIXTEEN friggin’ producers to this turkey. Now I doubt many of them had even in a finger in constructing this train wreck, but it does illustrate how many people Beatty had to call to scrape together a budget to pay for such an excessive cast. Too bad none of the producers gave Beatty any hints that this was a meandering, poorly written mess because that could have saved us all the fucking trouble in the world.
Oh yes, I should emphasize that Beatty came out of directorial retirement (since 1998’s Bullworth) to write this…what the fuck do I even call it? Elephant jizz? Brontosaurus diarrhea? Godzilla pimple pus? Screw it, let’s call it a whale miscarriage (yeah I’m going to hell, what out of it?). And while I thought Bullworth was semi-interesting, Beatty has crafted a rambling mess of a screenplay. I’ve already explained how fucking ludicrous the plot was, but the dialogue is so painfully dull that I couldn’t focus on it since it just kept droning on and on in obtuse directions. This was like seeing someone who’s senile trying to tell you about several years of their life on their deathbed, it’s just fucking sad to hear because you know this person has barely any idea what they’re talking about.
This becomes especially obvious when the film covers the various legal troubles that plagued Hughes in his twilight years. And I don’t mean they cover one or two lawsuits he was dealing with, I’m talking about five to seven different legal battles involving his ownership stake in certain companies to government contracts to whether he could be committed to a mental institution to whether he is of sound mind based on the representations made by some fuckwit who was introduced in the beginning of the movie and was never heard from until the last ten minutes. And in case you think I’m rambling, you should see this spectacle for yourself and try to get through it without chucking a toaster at your screen.
But the script is at its most cringe-worthy, detestably awful when it gets to the romance. The “love triangle” (can’t think of a mean euphemism right now) of Frank, Marla and Howard is about as enthralling and sexy as laying LEGO bricks on top of each other. First off, these characters aren’t established very well through the boring, tortous dialogue that fails to engage you or even flesh out these characters. Secondly, these actors have fuck all chemistry with each other; Ehrenreich in particular looking pissed off in every scene (an observation made by a fellow critic friend of mine who was similarly aghast this movie exists). He looks like he’s praying for Death’s sweet embrace or for when the scene is done (whichever is faster) and his romantic feelings for Marla comes out of left field. Lily Collins tried a little harder, but she can’t spin gold out of shit and ends up giving a half-hearted “drunk” performance that feels like an impression made by a friend while you’re out in the club on Friday night.
And finally, Beatty himself is fucking atrocious in this. If his writing and direction weren’t bad enough, his performance seals this movie’s fate as one of the worst films of the year. I didn’t think anyone could top Marlon Wayans or Ben Stiller in terms of self-indulgent, hackneyed acting but Beatty takes the crown as King of the Assholes. While Wayans and Stiller made far worse films, Beatty is still the worst actor out of them all with the insane gibberish he spouts (and that he fucking wrote). He clearly didn’t know how to portray someone with the mental difficulties that Hughes had in real life, so Beatty opts instead to pantomime someone going senile. Plus, when you compare Beatty to the meticulous, research-heavy performance Leonardo DiCaprio gave in The Aviator, you realize how woefully out of depth Beatty was, even discounting how awful the script, story and direction were already.
It blows my fucking mind that some critics had the balls to call this “one of the best movies of the year.” Maybe they all felt bad that a Hollywood icon has come out with his passion project and these critics are afraid their last word about him will be a negative one (given all the celebrity deaths that occurred in 2016, it’s not unlikely). I’ve seen a similar sentiment held about Clint Eastwood, but that man fucking tries. Eastwood puts his heart and soul into a project and it may not be “the best,” but it’s at least competent and demonstrative of someone with a knack for filmmaking. Beatty has no such talent in his latter years, he has turned in a bizarre, infuriating clusterfuck of a film and has presented it at the height of Oscar season to steal an award before he goes out.
But fuck that shit, I obliterated Garry Marshall a few months ago in what I now know to be his final work after he passed away two months after his film’s release. So I have zero qualms in beating this crap up and saying that Beatty made a shit film. If you’re reading this Mr. Beatty, you are a Hollywood legend and have turned in several iconic performances that hardly anyone will remember you in this film but…
FUCK THIS MOVIE