26 November 2016

Howard Hughes, Rules Don't Apply: A review


I'm not an expert on Howard Hughes. I didn't see the 2006 movie about Clifford Irving, the fake Hughes biographer, starring Richard Gere in Irving's role in "The Hoax." Leonardo de Caprio's performance as Hughes in "The Aviator" (2004) featured his earlier life in Hollywood and in the airline industry from the 1920s and 1930s. Warren Beatty's 'biography' of Hughes picks up and ends in 1964, so there is no overlap with Aviator. Beatty's super-involvement included producing, directing, writing the screenplay, and acting as the lead character. Let me highlight a few moments of the film.

Four main characters feature: Beatty as Hughes, Lily Collins as Marla Mabrey, Matthew Broderick as Levar Mathis, and Alden Ehrenreich as Frank. (For those who follow this blog about many Jewish concerns, the last three of these listed have Jewish ancestry). Other characters are played by the likes of Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Candice Bergen in more than cameo roles.

The ambling story concerns Hughes in conflict with the world: New York bankers (led by Oliver Platt), his own staff, and just about everyone. He makes Marla wait for her one-off appointment with him after her screen test. He makes us wait ... and wait. It seems interminable. Hughes doesn't appear as luminous as most would make of themselves if they were billionaires (or was he 'only' a millionaire?) In fact, he stays in the shadows most of the movie. The choice of lighting reminded me of "Citizen Kane" and even the mystery of Rosebud seemed to flashback on me in "Rules."

Beatty uses the ingenue Mabrey as a foil, and in the movie this Baptist woman is the daughter of Bening (Beatty's real wife). Too weird. Collins as Marla makes perfect sense. The real-life daughter of singer Phil Collins, has been in a few things, but this is her first major role. Her IMDB listing is here . And she's playing a starlet-wannabe coming to Los Angeles/ Hollywood for the chance of a lifetime. She comes from Front Royal, Virginia, still a rural town near Washington, DC. Her Baptist preacher has inspired her to know about virtues including sexual behavior and about abortion and such. Some surprises ensue as you might expect.

I will not spoil the ending, but will tell you that this is not an Irish tale. It's pure Hollywood. At least in its endings.

There was a momentous scene which seemed to turn the movie, but Beatty didn't stay black-to-white as I expected. In that scene he 'came out' and turned on a lamp near his darkened self. If I remember right, the background music of Mahler's 5th even changed its feeling. He caught a serious glimpse of his DNA-in-the-future, and that seemed to give him spark and lift. But Beatty didn't keep it going to my disappointment. By the way, for Donald Mitchell, perhaps the most important Mahler scholar writing today, the Fifth Symphony “initiates a new concept of an interior drama.” The idea of a programmatic symphony has not vanished, “it has gone underground, rather, or inside.” I wonder if that influenced the choice of the 5th throughout.

Perhaps Beatty saw in Hughes a great American enigma. A life of massive financial success and yet a life of wishing to be in relationship with his departed father. A desire to keep his father's legacy, or at least his name, in perpetuity. And utter dissatisfaction with those who disagreed with him, on any level, even about ice cream availability.

He lived as a recluse, see these facts about the real Hughes in this article from History.com I'm sure some of the real story influenced Beatty. And then there is the Hollywood add-on as per usual.

Hughes was a megalomaniac, but I'm not a psychologist, so probably shouldn't evaluate him as such with such little information. Still, Beatty made us think this in the very slow opening (at leat 45 minutes of the 2 hours) and Hughes' obsession with his own reputation and possible identification as crazy.

Someone asked me "Did you like the movie?" And honestly I never quite know if I liked some movies until I sit down to write the review of it. This one is certainly in that category. What I liked was clear...the parts by Sheen, Bergen, Platt, Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin... they all were subjugated to the great one. Beatty made it clear, in their deference, and their compliance, their opposition and their diminution, that Hughes was the greater. I liked the ingenue and her life choices she was continually forced to make. I liked the Radaresque Broderick in his subjugation to Hughes, until that one moment of confrontation. I liked the forward-thinking Frank, the chauffeur. I suppose there was enough in the movie to give it another look, down the road, on an airplane at 35,000 feet in a few months.

ABC News in the US gave it a moderate score, and finished with "When "Rules Don’t Apply" is good, it’s a delight. When it’s not, you just wish you were somewhere else." Oy, did I agree with that one!

And maybe then I will think of what I have to do to live in subjugation to my Greater One, the Almighty. No matter how I see myself in this movie, as I identify with one or more characters (at a time), I know that in the end, no matter how much I gain or lose, there is a Greater One. A God who gives of Himself that we might have life. I had a good relationship at times with my dad, but when I met the Eternal Father, the Lord God Almighty, I found my own darkness-to-light moment and the music changed from Mahler's 5th to Mahler's Resurrection!

No enigma now. Life comes and life lives on, because of the One who said of Himself (and which is a sign on one of the churches in the early part of the movie), "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." (Yeshua, the messiah quoted by his friend and biographer John) Thanks be to God.

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