In 1958, the sweet and innocent Ms. Apple Blossom Queen from Virginia, Marla Mabrey (Collins), with dreams of making it big in Hollywood, steps into the world of Howard Hughes and her life is never the same. For four-hundred dollars a week, a house to reside and a driver she, along with many other woman, are actresses, singers and dancers, kept under contract and available at all times for screen by Hughes, ready for screen tests at a moments notice and at his whim. What becomes evident and quickly is he may not have anything for them, but nobody else can have them. They are what he sees as the best and he, the great and powerful Howard Hughes, has them. It makes the point of the opening scroll clearer; a quote by Hughes, “Never check an interesting fact.” Being very paranoid Hughes keeps close check on everyone he employees yet is emotionally close to few. Of his many drivers, Frank (Ehrenreich), a young and deeply religious Methodist, grabs the attention of the virginal Baptist Blossom, Marla. Frank is not only religious but engaged, however, he notices her, as well, struck by her ability to stand out in a crowd; to be different, speak as an individual and not try to fit into a mold.
Hughes has strict rules about his drivers having affairs if they’re married, in fact, rule #1 is no employee is allowed to have any relationship whatsoever with a contract actress. He doesn’t want them getting too close in any capacity but Frank can’t help himself and breaks the rule. Frank and Marla, having an almost immediate attraction to one another, get closer and closer and defy the rules of not only Hughes but of their church. Perhaps this is the only way they find comfort in the abnormal life they cater to each day.
Paranoia grips the eccentric billionaire for which they work. Frank and Marla become a lifeline to Hughes as he teeters on the edge of madness. He sees almost no one and he lives in the shadows; in the dark and secrecy. Once you’re in, you give up your life for his and his desires, his dreams. His needs are always met and whether fake or fiction in the heart of the person doing it, everyone coddles him and indulges him, laughs at every joke and is at his beckon call. Frank and Marla change who they are as time moves on, to please their boss but soon it comes clear his interest is only in himself.
The film is quite fascinating. With rumors of his quizzical personality and the opening quote, “Never check an interesting fact,” the question is what or if any of the film is factual. Did he really have to have certain ice-cream instantly at any given moment and insist on flying himself across the world at the drop of a hat? Curiosity of Hughes himself is what makes this movie so riveting but the sweet love story, the old fashion style it’s presented and the music Beatty uses makes it that much more delightful. Beatty is larger than life and it’s great to see him back with this particular project. He also wrote and produced it so he chose cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel (The Natural, Hope Floats, The Passion of the Christ) who has everyone in a special glow that befits the time period and the ambience Beatty was going for. “Rules Don’t Apply” is the perfect holiday release and I suggest you give it a watch this Thanksgiving weekend.