Here's a comparison of two film makers.
Woody Allen is one year over eighty.
Warren Beatty is one year under eighty.
Both have won Oscars for directing.
Woody Allen regularly delivers one new movie a year.
Warren Beatty delivers on average one new movie every eight years.
Now, at the pace of Woody Allen, he naturally delivers some good stuff and some not-so-good stuff.
You would think that, with the extended lag between movies, every film Beatty directs is a masterpiece. Well, not so much. His last work was in 1998 with the dreadful "Bulworth."
In the ensuing 18 years, Beatty has managed to conjure up a compelling, often hilarious movie called "Rules Don't Apply." In this case, the prep work over almost two decades was well worth it. I got to see it in a crowded screening before it opened and Beatty did a Q and A after the movie. He's oddly shy and, at times, incoherent. I guess that happens when you are 79. Luckily, Warren never once mentioned that I almost knocked him on his ass several years ago in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is often featured in the film.
For those not in the know, "Rules Don't Apply" is a snapshot of five years or so of the life of eccentric, possibly clinically insane billionaire Howard Hughes. Beatty does double duty in the title role as he obviously enjoys playing real people, such as John Reed and Bugsy Siegel. Indeed, he said as much after the screening and also told us that a lot of the story was based on things he learned from talking to many Hughes associates over...well, I guess...the last 18 years.
The story? It runs from the mid 50s to 1964. Hughes, among many other possessions, owns RKO Studios (if I am not mistaken, he sold it to Desi Arnaz in 1958). Back then, there were a lot of pretty girls under contract to the studio which was often been run by the virtually invisible Hughes, who gave the actresses their paychecks by lowering them out a window.
Anyway, each girl has a driver assigned to them. And one actress Marla, a Southern Baptist, starts to fall a little bit for her young driver named Frank. He reciprocates, too. But, out of left field, so does Mr. Hughes himself. Did this really happen? Hmm, maybe. Beatty has said that the two young characters were composites of real people. The tale, as it unfolds, is just crazy enough not to be made up.
As the romantic saga threads the film, "Rules Don't Apply" is uplifted by moments of sheer lunacy as Hughes' eccentricities are laid bare for all to see and laugh at. It captures the era perfectly and the frequent rear projection of a 1950's Hollywood is gloriously provided.
Also working in our favor is Beatty's ability to cast the film with some reliable and familiar faces with the likes of Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Oliver Platt, Candice Bergen, Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, and Martin Sheen showing up for a couple of scenes each. The star value in the supporting cast lends to the notion that this is a real Hollywood movie about...well...Hollywood.
I have read that early cuts of "Rules Don't Apply" were three hours long. The story certainly doesn't command that length. Even at its slightly over two hour running time, the film starts to feel a little stretched and I was squirming. Or maybe that was because the woman next to me was giving little to work with on the arm rest. Small quibbles if you are laughing at the scene up on the screen.
"Rules Don't Apply," while I doubt it is Oscar worthy, is well worth your viewing time this holiday season. I can't wait to see what Warren Beatty comes up with in 2025.
LEN'S RATING: Three-and-a-half stars.
Dinner last night: Leftover franks and beans.