by Cassie Ochoa
Forbidden love pops up again in Rules Don’t Apply, the latest film directed by and starring Warren Beatty. In the film, two young lovers (Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich) fight for their love against differing religions and a domineering Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty), who forbids his employees to become romantically involved. The trailer shows an all star cast of Beatty, Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick, Ed Harris, Martin Sheen, and Alec Baldwin, as well as up and coming names like, Ehrenreich (the new Han Solo), Haley Bennett (The Girl on the Train), and Taissa Farmiga (The Bling Ring). The most interesting thing about the film is Beatty’s return, not only to the silver screen, but to the director’s chair. Aside from a television special about Dick Tracy, which in and of itself seemed extremely random, Beatty hasn’t directed a film since 1998. Will this be his comeback?
Beatty has directed a total of four other features and in every one of them, he pulls double duty as director and star. His filmography is all over the place in terms of tones and considering that he’s a credited writer on three of them, it’s safe to say his directorial efforts are predominantly passion projects. He is the only person who’s been nominated twice for an Academy Award for directing, producing and writing for the same film. So, it stands to reason that his work is worthy of critical acclaim in some form. Famous for being one of the last icons of Golden Age Hollywood, he certainly deserves some respect in the director’s chair.
There was a point in time where Hollywood really had no clue what to do with comic book material. Dick Tracy, based on a comic strip from the 1930’s, takes the visual outlandishness of the Burton-helmed Batman series with the the serious edge of a crime film. With a murderer’s row of famous faces–Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Catherine O’Hara, Mandy Patinkin and William Forsythe–behind layers of grotesque makeup, this cast is stacked. Dick Tracy is more famous for it’s usage of Madonna as Breathless Mahoney, lounge singer and femme fatale. This clip from the film showcases both, the problems of the film and the highlights, as Tracy meets Breathless for the first time and arrests her new boyfriend “Big Boy” Caprice (Pacino). In the first half of the clip, the editing is sloppy, performances are poor, and the screenplay shows signs of straining with the arrest of Caprice. But once Tracy sneaks into Breathless’ room, the visual style and noir overtones of the script come to a head. The scene plays like a missing colored subplot from Sin City, but the performance from Madonna really shines in it’s corny way. The femme fatale seducing the beguiled hero is an old trope, but when Dick Tracy leans on the clichés, it helps elevate an otherwise dull film. The screenplay, which Beatty had no hand in writing, is where the film suffers most. The cinematography by Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now) is inspired in some moments, but dull in others. Overall, the film is wasted potential, regardless of where the blame lies, but the moments where Dick Tracy shines make it worth the watch.
The father of Zooey and Emily, Caleb Deschanel’s background as a cinematographer spans over five decades of film work and includes five Academy Award nominations for cinematography. He’s directed several episodes of television, two features, and has certainly earned his rank as a lifetime member of the American Society of Cinematographers. He works his best when working around the light conditions on a set such as, The Black Stallion, and all of his films have a distinct feel without being overbearing. He’s a silent master of his craft, remarkable for overall quality, as opposed to being extremely focused on any particular sequence.
A grotesque examination of Southern desperation, Killer Joe is one of the films that helped revitalize the career of Matthew McConaughey from rom-com lead to a versatile actor. Killer Joe is about a desperate man (Emile Hirsch) who hires a rogue cop named Joe (McConaughey) to kill his mother for her life insurance policy. In exchange for his services, Joe is rewarded with his victim’s daughter, Dottie (Juno Temple) as collateral. The whole film stands almost in the shadows. For example this scene from the film is just a story told by Joe to Dottie about a vengeful man. It’s a simple scene, but the cinematography highlights McConaughey’s performance and how Dottie becomes more and more drawn into Joe’s spell. The two characters don’t share the same status, with Joe dominating his own shot. It’s a darkly comic moment in a film that revels in both, the darkness of the human spirit and the duality of villainous people.
So what should be expected from Rules Don’t Apply? Well, the cinematographer always brings his A-game, and the film just bleeds of 1950’s Hollywood nostalgia. The whole film looks like a sepia photograph lovingly restored to color. The story is interesting, if not revolutionary in its screwball nature, but a return to writing for Beatty is still a return. With a triple threat like Beatty on board, two great performers as the young lovers, and a fantastic supporting cast, Rules Don’t Apply may be a standout among the films being released this month.