Warren Beatty in Rules Don’t Apply (Photo: Fox)

★★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Warren Beatty
STARS Warren Beatty, Lily Collins

Warren Beatty snagged a richly deserved Academy Award for directing the unsung 1981 masterpiece Reds, but he’s never won an Oscar for his acting. Yet for approximately 50 years, he’s delivered a hefty number of dazzling turns, refusing to coast on his good looks and instead exploring characters who were often eccentric, offbeat or even downright psychotic. With Rules Don’t Apply, it’s interesting to note that his acting remains as strong as ever while it’s his helming abilities that seem to have become a tad corroded over time.

Working from a script he co-wrote with Bo Goldman, Beatty has fashioned a film that often seems as schizophrenic as its key character, the towering figure of Howard Hughes. As played by Beatty himself, the billionaire is an omniscient presence, even when the story focuses more on the budding relationship between two of his employees. Folks who toil under Hughes aren’t allowed to date any of his contract actresses, which means chauffeur Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) and starlet Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) have to keep their flirtatious parrying on the down low.

Viewers who can get on the film’s wavelength — and who aren’t looking for something as meaty as Martin Scorsese’s Hughes biopic The Aviator — will find (as I did) much to enjoy, but there’s no denying the picture is slight in the extreme, with most of its particulars dissipating from memory rather rapidly. Still, it’s been 15 years since Beatty participated in any movie (headlining the woeful Town & Country), and it’s nice to see the maverick filmmaker still in the game, even if he’s no longer the one writing the rules.

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