Thursday, July 14, 2016

Warren Beatty Returns After 18 Years With Underwhelming "Rules Don't Apply" Trailer

Scene from Rules Don't Apply
It has been awhile since we've heard from the multi-talented Warren Beatty. For a man whose career has given us cherished films such as Bonnie & Clyde and Reds, he seems to have become quiet in recent years. So quiet that we haven't seen him on the big screen since 2001's Town & Country, and behind the camera since 1998 with the rapping politician satire Bulworth. However, his long gestating film about Howard Hughes has finally broken his silence. With many wondering what's in store from one of cinema's richest voices, it's Rules Don't Apply: a film that looks far more comedic and slapdash than one could imagine for a director known for his meticulous nature. However, it looks to be good, even if it isn't quite the welcome home party that people waiting 18 years would want.

If one looked at Beatty's career after 1990, it is one that has become increasingly curious and curiouser. While Dick Tracy played to Hollywood's first wave of obsession with comic book movies, it was a far cry from his richly political Communist expose epic Reds. His follow-up Bulworth came eight years later, and it may be one of the most baffling films released during the 90's. It made Beatty's political agenda somehow appear clueless and charming in the way that the Rapping Granny before was, despite maybe having a bit to say. Still, it would've been weird to end his career on that note. That is why Rules Don't Apply is particularly exciting and will hopefully spice up awards season. After all, Terrence Malick waited 20 years between Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, and both did fairly well.

If there's one issue, it's that there's a lot of preconceived notions going into a film about Howard Hughes in 2016. For starters, many (myself included) consider director Martin Scorsese's The Aviator to be a quintessential biopic of the tycoon. Leonardo DiCaprio's performance more than sets a high bar for anyone wishing to play him. While I think that Beatty is good enough to bring a different spin to it, the notion going into a film that's taken 18 years to arrive would make it sound like it's a powerful drama that Beatty has spent countless hours fine tuning until it created his vision. That's the assumption that I first had when reading about this years ago. 

Then, the first trailer came out. It felt familiar. Not in the way that makes me respect Beatty as a legend. Speaking as the chances of us waiting another two decades for another film may not be plausible (if just because I don't see him living that long), this feels like it could've been a magnum opus along the lines of Reds. Instead, it goes for the same humor bent that Bulworth featured. It also feels greatly familiar for two reasons. The first is the presence of Alden Ehrnreich, who did great work in Hail, Caesar! earlier this year - another comedy about Hollywood studios. There's also this weekend's Cafe Society, which also takes a humorous look at cinema culture. While there's nothing wrong with it, the fact that these three films feel like photocopies in their advertising definitely gives me skeptical deja vu.

Check out the trailer below:

It looks fine, not great. Here's the plot description according to IMDb:
An unconventional love story of an aspiring actress, her determined driver, and the eccentric billionaire who they work for.
While I am generally forgiving of first trailers not being knockouts, there is a side of me that is still disappointed that this isn't better. It definitely looks like it could be fun, but I don't know if it will get any traction beyond Beatty's triumphant return after a long silence. Of course, the trailer editing could be to blame and that this is far more engrossing and dramatic than it's given credit for. After all, Scorsese's Hugo had very childlike trailers that many considered to misrepresent the final film. Still, there's nothing wrong with Beatty making a lighthearted comedy around Hughes, though it's an uphill battle to distinguish itself from The Aviator as well as warrant the 18 year wait. I don't know that this trailer could've succeeded in that regards, but this definitely doesn't get my hopes up for an artist whose previous work I generally enjoy.  

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