At 79 years old, Warren Beatty has seen more than a few projects since hit the scene in "Splendor in the Grass" (1961). He has gone on to successfully portray bank robber Clyde Barrow, activist John Reed, gangster Bugsy Siegel and police detective Dick Tracy.


He fits in well with the throwback era of historical and fictional characters. In his latest film, he takes on the role of the late eccentric billionaire, Howard Hughes in his latter years. Hughes was, in his heyday, bigger than life as he was front and center with business interests in film, aviation, hotels and casinos. His affairs with Hollywood starlets were well documented and the center of this film.


It opens with the bustle of the famous 1972 memoir hoax by Clifford Irving who claimed that Hughes was suffering from dementia and incapable of making decisions. Hughes was to denounce the memoir as fake by teleconference but his recluse behavior put that idea in jeopardy.

We are then taken back to an earlier year when he was bankrolling several wannabe starlets at various luxury accommodations around Los Angeles. One of the starlets was Marla Mabrey (Collins) who may or may not have been an actual person. He brought she and her bible thumping mother (Bening) to stay for a screen test. To get them around the city, he provided them with a driver, Frank (Ehrenreich) with specific instructions that fraternizing with the starlets was strictly forbidden.


The film progresses with Frank and Marla frantically trying to meet Mr Hughes, finally meeting him, Franks promotion to a Hughes insider - the movie even detailed the banana nut ice cream incident in Las Vegas. Frank usurps another Hughes insider played by Matthew Broderick and causes quite a stir as he frequently asserts his own opinion when most of the others remain quiet.

Beatty is perfectly suited to play the role of the eccentric Hughes. You will laugh out loud when Hughes gets into the pilot's seat of his planes despite a history of crashing. Beatty gives the impression that Hughes really didn't know what he was doing or was suicidal. However his lackeys were quite willing to take a chance they wouldn't crash and burn.


It is widely known that Beatty is quite a Hughes-expert, having studied the billionaire for many years. Unlike the more suave Hughes portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Aviator", Beatty delivers the seedy, sleazy Hughes that would have the nerve to seduce a starlet with a frozen TV dinner served up in a darkened room.


The narrative becomes jumbled when, instead of making Hughes the protagonist, Beatty - who also wrote the screenplay - keeps deflecting back to the weaker less interesting Frank and Marla. This leads to all kinds of awkwardness as Beatty's character steals every scene. Much like his Howard Hughes character, Beatty seems determined to sabotage his film.


This is Beatty's first film in fifteen years and that is why you are compelled to see it. But much like Hughes gaps in flying time, maybe Beatty has been away from the industry too long; definitely a bumpy ride.


"Rules Don't Apply" is uneven with poorly cast leads Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich getting greatly overshadowed by film greats Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. The movie about a starlet and her driver takes a back seat to the story of the billionaire.   -- GEOFF BURTON