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Rules Don’t Apply – Movie Discussion

Stacey Tuttle on January 29, 2017 - 6:00 pm in Movie Reviews 2017

Rules Don’t Apply is a thought provoking movie about the “rules” in life. What happens when the rules of religion are in opposition to the rules for success, to get ahead? Do the rules apply to everyone, or are some people simply above and/or beyond the rules? While I found the portrayal of Christianity a bit sad and missing the mark, the movie still raises some difficult and important questions.  

Marla, a sweet, innocent, young Christian girl arrives in Hollywood with promises of a chance to make it big through Howard Hughes. She is fully of ambition, but also deeply committed to following her Christian roots. (Note that her Christianity is more about the “rules”, aka, no drinking or sex than it is about any real relationship with Christ.) She’s a novelty of purity in Hollywood.

Marla begins to doubt, however, her real potential for success. She doesn’t have the typical body. She doesn’t sing or dance well. She writes songs—not a quality in great demand for a screen icon. It is as she is looking at the “rules” for success in Hollywood that she realizes she comes up short. According to the Hollywood norm for women, she knows she doesn’t have much chance at making it. It is at this juncture when Frank, her driver, coins the phrase, “the rules don’t apply to you.”

What an encouraging thought! Yes, there are rules, but you are special and the rules don’t apply to you. You are both above and beyond the rest of the women who must adhere to such standards.

In some ways, Frank was right. There was a star-quality to Marla that went beyond simple bust size. She began to get the attention of Howard Hughes and others. Partly because of her beauty, sure, but also because of her innocence and purity. Ironically, it was because she followed the rules of her faith that the rules of society didn’t seem to apply to her.

The problem is, she changed. The idea that rules didn’t apply to her went to her head, and she quit following the rules which had meant so much to her, those of her faith. Instead, she started playing by the rules of the world (even though she probably didn’t realize it at the time). She sacrificed her innocence and slept with the boss.   The moment she did so, she lost that something which set her apart. She lost her innocence. When she behaved like the other girls, she suddenly had to live by their rules.

She’s not the only one caught up by this idea that the rules don’t apply to a special few. Howard Hughes and Frank (the driver) are both comforted by the thought that they, too, are beyond the rules… but are they? Are any of us?

First off, we probably need to clarify the terms a bit. Which rules are we talking about? Are there some rules that no one is exempt from and other rules from which some people are exempted? In the movie, you see at least two sets of rules—moral (and/or religious) rules, and social rules. When it comes to moral rules, ultimately no one is exempt. Howard lives the most flagrantly in violation of them, but in the end, we see that even he has to pay the piper. We also see his longing for all that he has violated. He longs for her purity. He wishes for family and meaningful relationships (though he has run them all off). His wild life and all his living outside the rules has literally driven him crazy. Or take Marla, when she crosses her moral boundaries the first time (with Frank), she spirals out of control and ends up crossing all of her boundaries shortly after…and then ends up pregnant.

When it comes to social rules, however, we see that there is, possibly, room for exemption. Marla could have had a measure of success without sleeping with her boss and violating her moral code and without having the right voice and/or body type. She could have, but she didn’t stay the course. So the movie falls short of showing us examples when the rules don’t apply, but the Bible gives us plenty of those examples. When we follow the Lord and live by HIS rules, HE can advance us, supernaturally, beyond what we might normally expect according to the “rules” of society. Take Joseph—he was in prison when God advanced him to be the second leader in the whole land, second only to the pharaoh. THAT is a case of “the rules don’t apply”! Or, the little boy with a few sardines and crackers (basically a lunchable) whose food, when blessed by Jesus, fed 5,000 people. The list goes on and on of people in the Bible (and throughout time) who, when they lived by God’s rules, found that the rules of society didn’t apply to them, because God was able to advance them and to work miracles.

So, the irony of it is, that if you are going to be one of those people for whom the rules don’t apply, you actually have to live by them. You have to humble yourself under the hand of God and His law, His rules, struggle and endure and wait… And then, God, Himself, may choose to advance you in such a way that others will think the rules didn’t apply for you.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. – 1 Peter 5:6-11

 

Questions for Discussion:

  • What did you think was the message of the movie? Do you think there are people for whom the rules really don’t apply?
  • What kinds of rules is it important to live by and what kinds of rules do you think aren’t so important to follow?
  • How does being a Christian change the discussion about the rules?

Click here to read quotes from Rules Don’t Apply.

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