Casting himself as the billionaire playboy philanthropist Howard Hughes seems more an egocentric volley for attention than a good casting call in this. Here Hughes has similar credentials, history, and reputation with women as the fictional Marvel bad boy Tony Stark without the panache to hold attention. This Hughes is aged and reclusive, most scenes performed behind a curtain or in the dark in shadow, which may be true to history but it doesn’t make for good film.
A brilliant cast encircles Beatty in this anticlimactic race to discover the life lesson that money does not buy happiness.
I wanted to love this film. It stars the fresh-faced, lovable future Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich. It has the distinct glow of the golden era, the warm magic of Hollywood’s bygone times. But, this seemingly gleeful period piece takes a dark turn when Hughes impregnates then alienates the mid-west innocent female lead, played by Lily Collins. She runs home to mommy, played by Beatty’s real-life wife Annette Benning. The build to that gross climactic scene is so gruelingly slow, I had sadly already lost interest in the sweeter, hopeful, age-appropriate alternate love story after about an hour of flirtatious tension and let down.
The loose premise also winds down Hollywood hills for far too long to warrant waiting for Alec Baldwin’s semi-coy cameo and for all of the other famous names and faces to stand in for momentary Beatty glory.
Alas Beatty, moved to attempt a memorable almost Woody Allen-esque tribute, fell short. It lacks structure, a tight script, clean editing, and character development. Even Matthew Broderick’s character, in so many unremarkable scenes, falls flat as another boy in Hughes’s frat.
Sadly, I wonder if Beatty just felt above it all, as if the rules of good storytelling just don’t apply to him.