Monday, November 28, 2016

Rules Don't Apply (2016)

Film: Rules Don't Apply (2016)
Stars: Warren Beatty, Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Candice Bergen, Ed Harris
Director: Warren Beatty
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 1/5 stars

Heaven Can Wait.  Reds.  Dick Tracy.  Bullworth.  It's quite a collection of films that Warren Beatty-Director, has amassed.  Beatty is, by my count, the only actor to have been nominated for acting, directing, producing, and writing in the same year twice.  Even Clint Eastwood couldn't equal that, which is saying something as Clint hasn't taken annoyingly long breaks in his filmography (it's worth noting that this is his first directing bid in 18 years...also that 1998 was 18 years ago), and that it was his first time acting in fifteen (the enormous bomb Town & Country which stalled a number of careers at the time).  As a result, I couldn't miss this movie.  Reds remains one of the crowning achievements of the 1980's, and is one of my all-time favorite movies-I owe Warren Beatty indefinitely for it, not to mention multiple other roles that place him amongst my favorite actors.  The reviews were scary, but it couldn't be that bad, could it?

(Spoilers Ahead) Unfortunately, it was.  Rules Don't Apply may be one of the most-hyped movies of the year for me simply because Warren Beatty is finally billed in the credits again, but even if you'd maintained low expectations for the picture, it's unlikely this would have surpassed them.  The film is the story of Howard Hughes (Beatty) toward the end of his career, when he is still an icon in American print but his output, especially as a director, is pretty low.  He keeps a stable of women in luxurious houses around Los Angeles, being chauffeured by a series of drivers who rarely understand why they're driving around these women, and have limited contact with Mr. Hughes, one of which is Frank (Ehrenreich), who develops a crush on an aspiring actress Marla Mabrey (Collins), who in turn is also romantically involved (briefly) with Howard Hughes.  The love triangle is the center of the film, though it's sidetracked by bouts of crazy from Hughes, Marla's weird focus on her own chastity and religion, and a bevy of Beatty's longtime Hollywood friends coming out for what may well be his swan song (Candy Bergen making a rare film appearance, as well as Martin Sheen-it's a pity that Beatty couldn't get his best buddy Jack Nicholson in for one last hurrah-THAT would have been something to see).

The film's problems are all over the board, and probably too innumerable to list.  For starters, Beatty has no idea if this film is supposed to be funny or a drama, and it does not combine the two well (at all).  There are scenes that are hilarious on-paper (some of the older members of my audience chuckled), and then it's followed by a heartbreaking sequence that shows how tragic the love triangle is (no matter how it lands, almost no one is going to completely win here).  It would have been better had Beatty decided to do a straight drama or comedy (he can do either), but trying to be both doesn't work, and feels like a movie that's been in production too long.

The lead actors leave much to be desired.  Alden Ehrenreich is fascinating to look at, and was great in Hail, Caesar! earlier this year, but cannot sell this underwritten character at all.  I'm not sure which old star Beatty was picturing when he wrote this (Robert Redford, perhaps?), but man is it bland.  Ehrenreich is a talent if his naive cowboy is any indication, but here his best attribute is a fascinating, John Barrymore-like profile that is framed well onscreen.

His acting is not noteworthy at all, and he has no chemistry with leading-lady Lily Collins, who is by far the worst part of this movie.  Collins has no onscreen ability or charisma, and is hopelessly generic every time I've seen her in a movie.  Considering she was abysmal in Mirror Mirror, tanked The Mortal Instruments franchise, and has now proven she can't even find talent opposite someone like Warren Beatty, perhaps it's time to stop hiring her and forcing her onto unsuspecting audience members?  There are other actors who aren't very good in the film, but they can at least claim no one cares about them (Beatty seems only focused on his three leading characters and doesn't really want to do anything other than let the camera beam at his old pals in bit roles).  Lily Collins has no excuse-this is Razzy-worthy stuff.

Beatty at the center is fun to see onscreen, though even there I question whether or not it's an okay performance or simply seeing a thousand movie memories in his wide smile that makes me give him a pass.  It's likely that after two back-to-back (albeit separated by 15 years) flops Beatty might be done at the movies, certainly behind the screen, but one bad movie or a few doesn't ruin your career when you are also Clyde Barrow or John Reed or Dick Tracy.  But it does if you're simply Phil Collins' daughter, so Lily Collins-perhaps it's time to take an acting class or seven?

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