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    Beatty Rules

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Hollywood lion Warren Beatty returns to movie theaters today in the aptly-titled Rules Don’t Apply, marking his 23rd screen appearance as an actor, 10th foray as a producer, 6th time out as credited screenwriter and 5th go-round in the director’s chair. This long-in-development “Howard Hughes” passion project has evolved into a nostalgic, nimble, even fanciful romantic comedy-drama, set in Tinseltown circa 1958, in which the eccentric billionaire inventor, aviator and movie mogul (played by Beatty) is the off-kilter centerpiece around whom the tale of a budding, rule-breaking romance between two Hughes contract employees (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’ Lily Collins and Hail, Caesar! discovery and future Han Solo Alden Ehrenreich) plays out. While the film offers potentially juicy characterization contributions from ensemble players Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, Candice Bergen, Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, Steve Coogan, Ed Harris, Megan Hilty, Amy Madigan, Oliver Platt, Martin Sheen and Paul Sorvino, a major focus will be on Beatty’s impersonation of the iconic Hughes, both as incorrigible womanizer and as a germaphobic nutcase without a clue. (Beatty shares the story credit on this rendition of Hughes with Bo Goldman, the Academy Award®-winning writer of another woolly screen depiction of the unconventional tycoon, 1980's Melvin and Howard.) Those two components of the Hughes mystique – lothario and lunatic – find strong parallels in the two fascinating Beatty vehicles offered on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray. With equally glamorous co-star Elizabeth Taylor, and strongly abetted by director George Stevens and screenwriter Frank D. Gilroy, The Only Game in Town (1970, available here at a Special Promotion reduced price: presents an adult, Las Vegas-set love story between a world-weary showgirl and a musician with a bad gambling habit who see in each other a chance to straighten out their discombobulated lives, if they can get past their own insecurities and surrender to personal commitment. A box-office disappointment in its time, it nonetheless provides a moving roll of the dice that glows with star charisma, effective touches of surprising humor and an undeniable humanity that cuts through the Sin City glitz. In the company of long-time pal Jack Nicholson, director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Adrien Joyce (aka Five Easy Pieces scribe Carole Eastman), Beatty unleashed his inner doofus as one of two hopelessly inept con men who conspire to fleece – and possibly finish off – a madcap heiress in the period farce The Fortune (1975). His slick-haired and self-deluding lover-boy Nicky Wilson, coupled with Nicholson’s hyper-manic embezzler Oscar Sullivan, are cinematic schmucks for the ages, and just as Beatty shines a spotlight on the talents of his charming young Rules Don’t Apply co-stars Collins and Ehrenreich, the frenetic Beatty/Nicholson teamwork and the expert comic grounding by director Nichols did the same trick in showcasing Stockard Channing in her lead-role debut as the oblivious object of their larcenous schemes. Interestingly, Beatty did not initiate either The Only Game in Town and The Fortune – but is nonetheless fully on board in both films. When he develops a project – like Rules Don’t Apply…plus other items from our collective film history like Bonnie and Clyde, Shampoo, Heaven Can Wait, Reds, Bugsy and Bulworth, the only rule that applies is to expect the unexpected, the distinctive, the provocative and the professional.