I remember growing up and hearing the name Howard Hughes and it being synonymous with the word ‘recluse’. Of course I learned more about what he had done in his life, but at the time I heard more about what he had become. It’s easy to tell a Hughes story when he was younger and helping the world master flight, but get into the later years and things kind of go off the rails. With the younger story already being told in “Aviator”, it was time to try and tell what happened to this great man.
Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty) as he got older, how can I put this, went a little nuts. He would live in different hotels and countries, often accompanied by aides as he did. Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) and Levar Mathis (Matthew Broderick) would become the two people he most trusted, but that is later in the story. Frank and Lavar begin working for Hughes driving the actresses that were contracted for RKO studios around to the many homes Hughes owned. These actresses were hand picked by Hughes and giving the girls a driver, it helped him keep tabs on them. Frank’s first job is picking up Marla Mabrey (Lilly Collins) and her mother Lucy (Annette Bening) as the newest member of RKO studios. With Frank being young and Marla as well, the two start to fall for one another, something that is forbidden in Frank’s contract. Hughes, who takes his time meeting people who work for him, eventually meets Marla, where something happens. It is what pushes Marla and Frank away from each other, at a time where Frank becomes Hughes most trusted aide. It would be years later before the two to reconnect and for Frank it’s another chance to make a different decision.
It has been said that this story was a passion project for the great Warren Beatty. I would say that statement was true, as he helped write, and also directs this chapter in Hughes life. Beatty being who he is, was able to attract a stellar cast, which includes Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Oliver Platt, and Steve Coogan, as well as all of those mentioned above. Most of the roles are the smaller kind, with the rising stars Collins and Ehrenreich taking the spotlight. Acting wise, everything is right on point as well as the story being told by Beatty, who also delivers a noteworthy performance as Hughes. The film has the feel of when movies like this were on top, and you didn’t have to wear a costume to be a box office king. You can tell Beatty put his heart and soul in the telling of this story, and the film only benefits from it. This was an enjoyable look into the later life of one of the most powerful men in this country’s history. With “Rules Don’t Apply” Beatty finally opens the curtains so we can see the chapter of Hughes so little of us knew, and in doing so delivers a good film in the process.