In November 1937, high school student and aspiring thespian Richard Samuels takes a day trip into New York City. There, he meets and begins a casual friendship with Gretta Adler, their friendship based on a shared love and goal of a profession in the creative arts. But also on this trip, Richard stumbles across the Mercury Theatre and meets Orson Welles, who, based on an impromptu audition, offers Richard an acting job as Lucius in his modern retelling of Julius Caesar, which includes such stalwart Mercury Theatre players as Joseph Cotten and George Coulouris. Despite others with official roles as producer John Houseman, this production belongs to Welles, the unofficial/official dictator. In other words, whatever Welles wants, the cast and crew better deliver. These requests include everything, even those of a sexual nature. Welles does not believe in conventions and will do whatever he wants, which includes not having a fixed opening date, although the unofficial opening date is in ...Written by
The author of the source material did not know anything about Arthur Anderson (the original actor who played Julius Cesar). He based it on the premise of a still photo of the teenage Anderson playing alongside Welles opening night. In reality, Anderson did not get fired and not only made it through the entire run of the show but was cast in two more of Welles' plays. See more »
When Orson and Richard go to the dressing room to check on George Coulouris, as they turn the corner, Orson is in a suit. When we see them complete the turn in the next shot, Orson has on a black trench coat. See more »
By the year of 1592, Shakespeare was already an actor, and a playwright. Records of how his stage career began have not survived. We do know that in 1594 he joined a theater troupe. Called... anyone remember? Not everyone at once now. The Lord Chamberlain's Men.
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Gilson Lavis is listed as "Drumer" instead of "Drummer". See more »
Considering the fanatic cult following that Richard Linklater has developed with films like Waking Life, Before Sunrise/Sunset, and A Scanner Darkly, let me preface this review by saying that I'm not a Linklater devotee. If Linklater is endowed with a species of genius, I must confess complete ignorance to it. Indeed, my favorite Linklater film was School of Rock, and he has always impressed me more by the breadth of his work and his willingness to challenge the conventions of film than by any individual film. It's perhaps this maverick spirit that drew him to do a film about Orson Welles.
Me and Orson Welles, based on a novel by Robert Kaplow, tells the story of a teenager, Richard Samuels (Zac Efron), who is swept from learning about Shakespeare in the classroom to the fast paced world of the Mercury Theater on Broadway when he lands a role in Orson Welles famous 1937 production of Caesar. As Orson Welles struggles to get the production ready for the premier, Richard falls for the theater's resident hottie, a charming and ambitious aspiring actress played by Claire Daines, and finds himself growing up quickly to the realities of show business and the real world.
The movie is entirely carried by it's acting, and the actor generating the most buzz is the British born Christian McKay who plays Welles. I'm very uneasy about praising portrayals of real life figures, because it seems any time an actor plays any historical figure (from Gandhi to Capote and Idi Amin) they receive excessive attention. I think it has less to do with the "acting" involved than it has to do with the fact that most audiences feel much more comfortable passing judgment (and bestowing praise) on mimicry than actual acting. That said, McKay does a masterful job in capturing that mythical image of a young Orson Welles that all of us film geeks have in our head, from the striking resemblance in appearance to the pitch perfect intonations in his voice. Welles is charming and maddening, endearing and brutal, and always larger than life... and McKay captures it all perfectly. It's clearly a role that McKay has been mastering for a long time, as he was doing a one-man-show about Welles on Broadway before being snatched for the role in Me and Orson Welles. From the Q&A session (at the Toronto international film festival), McKay seemed intelligent and passionate about his work, and I truly hope he doesn't get pigeon-holed into spoofing Welles for his entire career.
Unfortunately the other acting foot that the movie stands on, isn't nearly as good. Zac Efron is just so pretty (and I say this as a heterosexual male) that it becomes distracting. Watching Efron act, it feels like he's trying to make women orgasm in every scene he's in, which works well in enough in the many scenes he's trying to court Claire Daines's character, but doesn't work in any other scene. Efron's acting makes it hard for the audience to emotionally connect and prevents the movie from achieving the emotional punch it might otherwise. The audience is never drawn in and they remain spectators, which, fortunately, isn't such a bad thing since the movie is so fun and nostalgically charming. Perhaps even the flighty and ethereal feeling the film gets because of it's lack of punch can be forgiven, since it's a movie about youth and growing up and so much of that involves tempestuous passions that end up being quite meaningless in retrospect.
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