(US - 2016)
Written and directed by Warren Beatty. Cast: Warren Beatty, Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Haley Bennett, Candice Bergen, Dabney Coleman, Steve Coogan, Ed Harris, Megan Hilty, Oliver Platt, Martin Sheen, Paul Sorvino, Taissa Farmiga, Amy Madigan, Paul Schneider, Hart Bochner, Louise Linton, Graham Beckel, Chace Crawford, Ashley Hamilton, Marshall Bell, Patrick Fischler, Michael Badalucco, Joe Cortese. (PG-13, 126 mins)
As an actor, writer, director, and producer, Warren Beatty has been nominated for 14 Oscars in total, winning one for Best Director with 1981's REDS. He's a living legend, and as a producer and star, one who was instrumental in ushering in the "New Hollywood" era with 1967's landmark BONNIE AND CLYDE. Beatty was never prolific even in his heyday: starting with his big-screen debut in 1961's SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS, he's acted in just 22 films in 55 years, the bulk of those being in the 1960s and 1970s. Offscreen since the expensive 2001 bomb TOWN & COUNTRY, Beatty returns with RULES DON'T APPLY, a pet project about Howard Hughes that he's had in various stages of development since 1973. Beatty also wrote and directed, and the whole thing was kept under wraps as shooting began in early 2014. Granted a Kubrickian level of freedom and secrecy that very few are afforded these days, Beatty made exactly the film he wanted to make, and if the end result is what he's had playing in his head for over 40 years, then you have to wonder what he was thinking and why he even bothered.
BULWORTH (though he reportedly pulled rank on Peter Chelsom and backseat-directed most of TOWN & COUNTRY himself), and that was a movie that had things to say that remain relevant today. Whether as a director, producer, writer, or star, Beatty has historically had his finger on the pulse of current events and deftly capturing the zeitgeist, whether it's the political commentary and the hip-hop awakening of BULWORTH, the changing cinema trends exemplified by BONNIE AND CLYDE, the post-Nixon/Watergate paranoia of THE PARALLAX VIEW, or the sexually liberated '70s in SHAMPOO. RULES DON'T APPLY (you could make a drinking game out of how many times that phrase is shoehorned in via dialogue or song) is a tone-deaf vanity project that puts Beatty in with other influential auteurs--Stanley Kubrick, Terrence Malick, George Romero, Dario Argento, to name a few--whose final or most recent works are indicative of aging legends who just don't get out much anymore. How else do you explain an extended gag about a cum stain on Frank's pants? Did Beatty just now get around to seeing a Farrelly Brothers comedy? And why is that joke in this movie? Given his sporadic work habits and his age, this is likely the last thing we're going to see from Warren Beatty. And that's a damn shame.