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Rules Donít Apply
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:
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;
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;
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.