‘Rules Don’t Apply’ reviews: Warren Beatty is in ‘such fine form’ in first film in 15 years

“Rules Don’t Apply” opened on Wednesday, November 23. It’s Warren Beatty‘s first film as an actor since 2001’s “Town and Country,” and his first as a director since 1998’s “Bulworth.” So was his comeback worth the wait?

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The film is a love story between aspiring actress Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) and driver Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich). But they’re both employed by reclusive, eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes (Beatty), who forbids his employees from fraternizing. This romantic comedy is a markedly different depiction of Hughes than Martin Scorsese‘s “The Aviator” (2004), the dramatic biopic that earned Leonardo DiCaprio a Best Actor nomination, but might this film also yield an awards windfall for its star?

Beatty’s performance as Hughes has been described as “delightful.” The legendary actor has “keen comic sensibility and restless intelligence,” and “it’s immensely pleasing to see him in such fine form.” Beatty has been nominated for 14 competitive Oscars, winning once as Best Director (“Reds,” 1981) and then receiving the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 2000. But he hasn’t won for his work in front of the camera despite four past nominations for Best Actor. Could “Rules Don’t Apply” earn him overdue acting honors?

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Stephen Holden (New York Times): “I would also suggest that ‘Rules Don’t Apply’ is a deeply personal film: a self-deflating autobiographical critique by Mr. Beatty, 79, arriving at a moment when he may realize that he has little left to protect and is free to portray the hypercompetitive Hollywood game as a nonsensical joke.”

Allen Salkin (New York Daily News): “One wonders: does the Hughes of ‘Rules Don’t Apply’ resemble the real Hughes? If so and even if not, Beatty’s choices as an actor, his adoption of a bunch of ticks to reveal his take on the recluse, are rather delightful. You get to know this guy, how he reacts to stuff, and what is likely going on inside his odd brain.”

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Kyle Smith (New York Post): “It would be unfair not to recognize Beatty’s keen comic sensibility and restless intelligence, both very much in evidence in the mostly delightful and old-timey ‘Rules Don’t Apply’ … It’s immensely pleasing to see him in such fine form. Or, as his obsessive-compulsive subject would say, such fine form. Such fine form.”

Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter): “Now, in his late 70s, Beatty is playing Hughes when the tycoon was in his mid-50s, and quite engagingly so. The primary action notably begins in 1959, precisely when Beatty started making a name for himself in Hollywood. The evocation of time and place is piquant and rife with a sense of forbidden sexuality strongly reminiscent of that summoned up in the film that made him a star, ‘Splendor in the Grass.'”

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