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Rules Donít Apply (2/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 127 minutes.

Not for children.

Itís said that Warren Beatty has been working on this film for a decade. He got one thing right; it felt like 10 years sitting through it.

Beatty has reportedly said that this is not a biopic of Howard Hughes. When George Hearst (William Randolphís father) was running for Governor of California in 1882 in a speech to the Democratic state convention, George said, "My opponents say that I haven't the book learning that they possess... They say I spell bird, b-u-r-d. If b-u-r-d doesn't spell bird, what in hell does it spell?" If this isnít a Howard Hughes biopic, what in hell is it?

Beatty would have you believe that itís a love story about two people involved with Howard, an aspiring young actress, Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) and her young driver who works for Howard, Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich). Marla has been brought out to test for a role in one of Howardís films and becomes one of many women working under the same pretext.

Beatty plays Hughes, starting in 1964 but almost immediately flashing back five years to 1959 where most of the story takes place. Itís not so much that it is unremittingly dull and uninvolving (does anybody care about Marla and Frank?), which it is, but it is so gargantuanly filled with total factual falsehoods. I canít list them all, but here are a few:

  1. Howard tries to fly the Spruce Goose in 1959 and gets it airborne for one minute. The only problem with this is that the flight of the Spruce Goose took place on November 2, 1947, 12 years earlier;
  2. Howard takes Frank out to eat a hamburger on a dock that overlooks the Spruce Goose floating before them. In fact, though, after Howard flew it on its one and only flight in 1947, the Spruce Goose was maintained in a climate-controlled hangar by a crew of 300 all of whom were sworn to secrecy. Thatís where it was in 1959, not floating alongside a dock where anyone could buy a hamburger and sit on a chair close enough to touch it;
  3. Beatty shows Howard testifying before Congress in 1959. He did testify before Congress, but that was also in 1947. I can find no record of the reclusive Howard testifying before Congress after that.

I could go on and on but I wonít. Itís disgraceful that Beatty would go to all the trouble to make a film about Howard Hughes and then mess up all the facts. Hughes was a man of enormous accomplishments who did many things worthy of mention. Why make things up?

The only things about the movie that are admirable are the color films of Hollywood and Los Angeles in 1959. They are remarkable, especially for those who remember the city in those halcyon days of yesteryear.

Unfortunately, those few moments are not nearly enough.

 

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