Rules Don't Apply
Rules Don't Apply is a 2016 American romantic comedy-drama film written, produced and directed by Warren Beatty. The ensemble cast features Beatty, in his first screen acting role in 15 years, Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick, Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich. Set in 1958 Hollywood, the film follows the romantic relationship between a young actress and her driver, which is forbidden by their employer, Howard Hughes.
|Rules Don't Apply|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Warren Beatty|
|Screenplay by||Warren Beatty|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$3.9 million|
The film had its world premiere as the opening film of the AFI Fest on November 10, 2016, and was theatrically released in the United States on November 23, 2016, by 20th Century Fox. It received mixed reviews and was a box office bomb, grossing just $3.9 million against its $25 million budget. For her role, Collins was nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical at the 74th Golden Globe Awards.
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In 1964 Acapulco, Frank Forbes, Levar Mathis, and Nadine Henly are anxiously pushing their employer, Howard Hughes, to phone in to a press conference.
In 1958 Los Angeles, Frank picks up Marla Mabrey, a devout Baptist beauty queen, alongside her strict mother Lucy. Marla is under contract with Hughes' RKO Pictures, receiving $400 a week ($3,390 today) and living in a beautiful home. Frank becomes Marla's main driver, chauffeuring her to the singing and dancing classes set up for Hughes' current retinue of 26 contract starlets.
Marla patiently waits for her screen test for Stella Starlight, but delays frustrate Marla and her mother, compounded by the fact that they have yet to meet Hughes. Marla befriends fellow RKO starlet Mamie. Levar regularly reminds Frank that the starlets cannot have boyfriends, and the chauffeurs must avoid any friendships with the girls. Frank is also devoutly religious, though he and his fiancée Sarah have secretly had sex, which they believe makes them effectively married already. When Lucy decides that they should return to Virginia, Marla opts to continue waiting for her screen test.
With her mother gone, Frank and Marla develop a deep connection. He lets her drive the car, and even tells her the full detail of his relationship with Sarah when Marla confides her virginity. Marla eventually shares that her worries over conforming to the Hollywood "rules" of being a great singer, dancer, or having a big bosom. Frank tells her that the rules do not apply to her. Marla finally meets Hughes in a private bungalow, where she turns down his offer of a drink and talks frankly about her aspirations to act. Nadine, Hughes' executive secretary, sets up Marla's screen test. Frank also meets Hughes for the first time, during which Hughes takes an immediate liking to him and brings Frank into his inner circle of staff.
Hughes becomes very reclusive, worried that the minority shareholders at Trans World Airlines (TWA), who openly disagree with how he runs the company, will try to have him committed so that they can control the company. His right-hand-man Noah Dietrich upsets Hughes by suggesting he see a psychiatrist, and Hughes gets legal advice that he should get married so his "wife" can refuse to sign any commitment papers. Marla's screen test is a meaningless façade. Later, she sings Frank a song she wrote for him, leading to them sharing a passionate kiss. They quickly stop themselves; Marla tells him that she feels like an adulterer, but Frank says that he will break up with Sarah.
While Frank is gone, Marla is called to another late night meeting with Hughes. She is very upset about Frank and consumes alcohol for the first time. When Hughes finally joins her, a very drunk Marla tells him how special he is. She performs her song for Hughes, who becomes emotional and suddenly proposes marriage, resulting in them having sex. The next day, Frank is devastated when she reveals that she is engaged to someone (she doesn't say who) and rudely dismisses him.
Within days, Hughes marries Jean Peters to protect him from being committed, fires Noah and hires Robert Maheu to be the CEO of his companies. Maheu warns him that the TWA shareholders could force Hughes to physically appear in court on charges of mismanaging TWA.
Marla is upset with herself for believing Hughes' proposal and having sex with him. When she later informs Hughes that she is pregnant with his child, he reacts by suggesting she is lying and looking for money. She is again very dismissive and rude to Frank, then returns to Virginia.
Hughes takes his entourage out of the U.S., becoming more and more reclusive. When the U.S. courts decide in favor of the minority TWA shareholders, with a judgement for $645 million, Hughes has to sell his most cherished asset, his father's original Hughes Tool Company, to pay off the debt.
The story shoots forward to 1964, with Frank, Levar, and Nadine waiting for Hughes to make his call to the U.S. press. It concerns a book written by Miskin, Mamie's ex-boyfriend, who claims to have interviewed Hughes in person and that Hughes has complete dementia, which could cost him the rest of his empire. Marla suddenly arrives with Matt, her and Hughes' five-year-old, with news that Mamie is ready to confirm in court that Miskin never met Hughes – so Hughes does not need to take the call. When he learns that Matt is there, he finds the strength to make the phone call. Hughes talks in great detail about many current and past events – proving he is lucid – then confirms that he has never met Miskin.
Frank immediately quits his job, goes after Marla and Matt, and the three leave together to live as a family in Los Angeles.
- Warren Beatty as Howard Hughes
- Lily Collins as Marla Mabrey
- Alden Ehrenreich as Frank Forbes
- Annette Bening as Lucy Mabrey
- Matthew Broderick as Levar Mathis
- Alec Baldwin as Robert Maheu
- Haley Bennett as Mamie Murphy
- Candice Bergen as Nadine Henly
- Dabney Coleman as Raymond Holliday
- Steve Coogan as Colonel Nigel Briggs
- Ed Harris as Mr. Bransford
- Amy Madigan as Mrs. Bransford
- Megan Hilty as Sally
- Louise Linton as Betty
- Oliver Platt as Mr. Forester
- Martin Sheen as Noah Dietrich
- Paul Sorvino as Vernon Scott
- Taissa Farmiga as Sarah Bransford
- Paul Schneider as Richard Miskin
- Chace Crawford as Young Actor
- Patrick Fischler as Director
- Ron Perkins as Senator Ferguson
- Peter Mackenzie as Gene Handsaker
- Julio Oscar Mechoso as President Somoza
- Evan O'Toole as Matt Mabrey
On June 20, 2011, Paramount Pictures announced that Warren Beatty would write, direct and star in an untitled film, his first directorial effort since 1998's Bulworth and his first acting role since 2001's Town & Country. Beatty had been working on a biopic based on Howard Hughes' life for more than 40 years, after seeing him in a hotel lobby in the early 1970s and being fascinated by him. The screenplay was written by Beatty, based on a story by himself and two-time Oscar-winning screenwriter Bo Goldman. On September 16, 2011, Paramount dropped the project and New Regency Pictures picked it up. The film then stayed in the development stages for almost three years. On February 24, 2014, it was reported that New Regency and RatPac Entertainment were producing and financing the film, with a $26.7 million budget ($25 million after taxes).
Beatty began looking for an ensemble cast for the film in June 2011, with him playing the role of Howard Hughes. He met with Andrew Garfield, Alec Baldwin, Annette Bening, Shia LaBeouf, Jack Nicholson, Evan Rachel Wood, and Rooney Mara to co-star. On November 14, 2011, Felicity Jones was cast as the female lead, but later dropped out of the role, due to production delays. Justin Timberlake and Alden Ehrenreich were up for the male lead, while Bening, Nicholson, Baldwin, and Owen Wilson were rumored for other roles. By February 2014, Beatty had cast Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Matthew Broderick, and Annette Bening among the ensemble. Collins portrays a young actress named Marla Mabrey, and Ehrenreich co-stars as Frank Forbes, assistant to Hughes, and who along with Hughes, becomes romantically involved with Mabrey.
On February 27, 2014, it was reported that Candice Bergen had joined the supporting cast, portraying Hughes' secretary Nadine Henly. On March 6, 2014, Martin Sheen was cast in an unknown role, later confirmed to be Noah Dietrich. Taissa Farmiga later joined the cast as Frank's fiancée Sarah Bransford. In April 2014, Brooklyn Decker revealed that Beatty had asked her to improvise on the film, but she did not know if her scenes would make the final cut. On May 9, 2014, Alec Baldwin joined the cast, portraying Robert Maheu, the reclusive billionaire's lawyer.
In March 2015, The New York Times reported that Dabney Coleman would co-star in an unspecified role. In February 2016, Steve Coogan's casting in the film was reported. That same month, Farmiga revealed in an interview that Ed Harris and Amy Madigan would be portraying her character's parents. In April 2016, the casting of Josh Casaubon was reported.
Principal photography for the film began on February 24, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Studio production took place at the Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood. On location filming took place at multiple venues, including S. Grand Avenue, Musso & Frank Grill, and the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. It was reported that production had been completed on June 8, 2014, after 74 filming days. Additional filming took place in late February 2015.
In April 2016, it was announced that 20th Century Fox would distribute the film with New Regency Pictures, with a planned fall 2016 release. Rules Don't Apply had its world premiere at the AFI Fest on November 10, 2016. The film was originally scheduled for release on November 11, 2016, but was pushed back two weeks and released on November 23, 2016.
In December 2017, it was announced that Arnon Milchan and Regency Enterprises, one of the film's financiers, was suing Beatty for $18 million. The company cited breach of contract, claiming Beatty had not repaid the promotion cost losses the company took on following the underperformance at the box office. In March 2018, an investment group including Brett Ratner, Ron Burkle and Steve Bing counter-sued Regency for $50 million, claiming it was their under-promotion of the film that had led to its "disastrous box office results and the loss of cross-complainants' entire investment".
The first production still from the film, featuring Collins and Bening, was released by Elle in October 2014. Images of Collins, Ehrenreich, and Beatty were released on May 18, 2016. In August 2016, Entertainment Weekly released another image from the film, featuring Ehrenreich and Beatty.
Rules Don't Apply was unsuccessful financially. Rules Don't Apply opened alongside Moana, Allied and Bad Santa 2, and was initially expected to gross $3–5 million in its opening weekend and $7–9 million over its first five days, from 2,382 theaters. However, the film made $65,000 from Tuesday night previews at 1,100 theaters, and just $315,000 on its first day (for a per-theater average of $129), and five-day projections were lowered to $2.2 million. The film ended up grossing $1.6 million in its opening weekend (with a five-day total of $2.2 million), finishing 12th at the box office. It marked the worst Thanksgiving debut ever for a wide release and 6th worst opening ever for a film playing in more than 2,000 theaters. In its second weekend, the film grossed $543,058 (a drop of 65.8%), with a per-theater average of $233 from 2,386 screens, finishing 17th at the box office and marking one of the biggest second-weekend drops of all time. In the film's third weekend, it grossed $37,215 (a drop of 93.1%), with a per-theater average of $209. The film closed on December 22, 2016, ending its domestic run with $3.7 million.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 56% based on 162 reviews, with an average score of 5.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "With Rules Don't Apply, Warren Beatty takes an overall affable – but undeniably slight – look at a corner of old Hollywood under Howard Hughes' distinctive shadow." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 60 out of 100, based on 40 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale.
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter wrote "At once an amusingly eccentric take on a billionaire fixated with controlling other people's lives and a romance about a young couple constipated by the conservative religious and social sexual mores of the 1950s, this is a fitfully funny quasi-farce that takes off promisingly, loses its way mid-flight and comes in for a bumpy but safe landing." Variety critic Peter Debruge wrote "Warren Beatty certainly took his time in getting this sprawling Spruce Goose of a movie off the ground, as the romance distracts from the Howard Hughes portrait, or vice versa."
The Guardian's Jordan Hoffman awarded the film 3/5 stars, writing, "The legend's odd and energetic film is a mix of fun, sadness and fatigue, and while not everything falls into place, it has its share of entertainment." Simon Thompson of IGN gave the film a 6/10 and wrote "It's an odd beast of a movie that sometimes works perfectly and is absolutely enchanting and then at other times just feels leaden and either half-baked or overdone. The story is great, there is some snappy dialogue and some nicely drawn characters and the cast can't be faulted [...] but unlike directors such as the Coen brothers, Beatty fails to make it pop and, in most cases, criminally underutilizes them – this does both them and the film a disservice." David Palmer of The Reel Deal gave the film a rating of 3/10, writing, "As someone who appreciates Warren Beatty's place and contribution to Hollywood history, I hope and pray he appears in at least one more great film, because ending his career on something as poorly assembled and downright boring as Rules Don't Apply would be devastating."
|List of awards and nominations|
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Critics' Choice Awards||December 11, 2016||Best Song||"The Rules Don't Apply" – Eddie Arkin and Lorraine Feather||Nominated|||
|Golden Globe Awards||January 8, 2017||Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy||Lily Collins||Nominated|||
|Hollywood Film Awards||November 6, 2016||New Hollywood Award||Won|||
|Hollywood Costume Design Award||Albert Wolsky||Won|
|Hollywood Music in Media Awards||November 17, 2016||Best Song – Feature Film||"The Rules Don't Apply" – Eddie Arkin and Lorraine Feather||Nominated|||
|San Diego Film Critics Society||December 12, 2016||Breakthrough Artist||Alden Ehrenreich (also for Hail, Caesar!)||Nominated|||
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