Sunday, November 27, 2016

Rules Don't Apply [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (L) (3 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Rules Don't Apply [2016] (screenplay and directed by Warren Beatty, story by Warren Beatty and Bo Goldman) may be a film "more for our times" than director Beatty and the rest of Hollywood ever would have thought.  With the country having apparently chosen to give the country back to obscenely rich, eccentric (and all but unaccountable) old white men, a film about the utterly bizarre (and _controlling_) billionaire Howard Hughes gives us a taste for what we're in for.

The film's actually about two "little people" who find themselves as trapped by Hughes' power / money as a couple of insects mesmerized by a gas lantern at night.  One was Marla Mabrey (played by Lily Collins)  who arrived wide-eyed to Hollywood along with her less trusting Baptist mother (played wonderfully by Annette Bening) at the beginning of the story, having been hired as a "contract actress" for Howard Hughes' RKO Studio after being crowned "Apple Blossom Queen" in some sort of a talent / beauty competition back home in rural Virginia.  The second was Frank Forbes (played by Alden Ehrenreich) about Marla's age, a young / good honest Methodist boy from Fresno (again basically rural) California who had just landed a job with Hughes' studio "as a driver" (though it was clear that he considered this job as "getting his foot in the door" of Hughes' Corporation, akin to getting a job "in the mail room" at a big bank / corporation "out East").  Driving Marla and her mother to the Cage, er Hollywood Mansion, where they'd be staying ... alone ... was Frank's very first assignment on his very first day "on the job" ...

It was clear that both Marla and Frank had ambitions.  Both were willing to work hard and arrived in Hollywood quite wide-eyed / optimistic.  What becomes clear ... and this honestly offers a really frightening insight into what we can come to expect (again) in the coming years in this country ... is that their WIDE-EYED OPTIMISM / WILLINGNESS TO WORK HARD _DIDN'T MATTER_.  The ONLY thing that seemed to matter was what Howard Hughes (played wonderfully in ever smiling but eccentric / paranoid / megalomaniacal... fashion by Warren Beatty himself) wanted.  And Howard Hughes, a BILLIONAIRE, _didn't_ "feel the need" ... to do much... ;-/.

Soooo ... we Viewers come to see honestly to our HORROR that Howard Hughes apparently had DOZENS of "contract actresses" who he'd _house_ (and pay) ACTUALLY QUITE WELL -- again Marla (and her mother) were handed A MANSION for their living quarters -- BUT were LITERALLY kept as "kept women" ... "a harem" ... with NOTHING TO DO.  Yes, they were all "hired" / brought to Hollywood as "contract actresses" BUT ... Howard Hughes, disorganized as he was (disorganized because HE WAS NUTS...), REALLY HAD NO WORK FOR THEM.

Did he at least sleep with them?  No, not really ... he apparently was too disorganized for much of that as well.  Did he at least let them get it on with others?  NO.  He had his managers enforce a sadistic "no tolerance for fraternization" rule between the "contract actresses" and their "drivers" (the only people they'd ever really see), the drivers effectively becoming "the eunuchs" in this insane equation.

And that's how the "land of Howard Hughes" seemed to run ... on one man's insane genius.  And he seemed too rich / powerful for ANYONE of his other employees / managers to tell him the truth ... that he was crazy ... lest, of course, they'd be fired.

Could this go on forever?  Well ... go see the film ... And if you find this whole story frighteningly familiar ... well Life does imitate Art sometimes.

So dear friends, welcome (perhaps) "Back to the Future" ... honestly a great if frightening film about what _may_ come to us ... again.

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