Me and Orson Welles (2008) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
72 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Breezy, nostalgic celebration of film and theater and one of the most dynamic figures to impact them
pyrocitor5 September 2008
The career of Richard Linklater has proved one of the most delightfully eclectic in the film industry, veering between works as diverse as teenage subculture films (Dazed and Confused) to philosophical romances (Before Sunrise) to drug-addled paranoid thrillers (A Scanner Darkly) to mainstream comedies (School of Rock). But even with such a varied body of work, it is difficult to deny Linklater's latest still seeming somewhat of an anomaly: a lighthearted period piece examining the timeless figure of Orson Welles, making his name through a 1930s theater production of Julius Ceasar still seems an odd about face even for such a versatile director. And yet it is somewhat fitting that such a whimsically talented modern director should examine one of cinema's most legendary mavericks as Linklater's latest, Me and Orson Welles is a charming addition to his body of work, a breezy, self- reflexive yet nostalgic celebration of the mediums of performance as experienced alongside one of the most dynamic and influential figures ever to impact them.

The agile script ably captures the conflicting clashes of the behemoth of a personality that was Orson Welles, from the explosive temper tantrums to the slyly manipulative charm to the casual womanizing, painting a vivid (but likely not larger than life) portrait of the man without either romanticizing or demonising him. It is ultimately the presence of the titular character which rescues the film from becoming yet another "cast rehearsing a play" film, as the dynamo of Welles tearing through the film at all the least expected moments creates a sporadic force of havok keeping the film continually off kilter, preventing it from descending into cliché and keeping it consistently interesting as consequence. While the story's lightness of touch does make some of the plot points either overly obvious or unbelievable, a film so unassumingly enjoyable fails to evoke much complaint - whether dabbling in the dramatic or the comedic, Me and Orson Welles remains refreshingly cheerful and earnest, and all the better for it. Completing the package, Linklater's rare tackling of a period piece demonstrates his typically astute ability to capture the feel and flavour of the times, with the earnest ambition of the 1930s well complimented by subtly stylish sets and costumes while simultaneously avoiding beating the audience over the head with more overt details of the time (instead of the potential hackneyed Nazi allusions, Linklater includes merely a brief radio snippet which is quickly cut off, a classy and subtle inclusion).

Undergoing a difficult transition from teenage heartthrob to dramatic lead, Zac Efron gives a surprisingly solid performance as the idealistic young actor swept into the wild world of Welles, convincingly contributing charm, comedy and genuine sympathy to the emotional centerpoint of the film. However, given the title, it isn't difficult to imagine the inevitable highlight of the show, and true enough, as the infamous Welles, British stage actor Christian McKay doesn't so much steal scenes as seize and throttle them, exploding on screen with the same engrossing bluster that only the real Welles himself could conjure up. Blending the conflicting elements of an indisputably difficult character as easily as he nails the trademark voice and appearance, McKay's Welles alternates between devilish charmer and explosive force to be feared, shaking up the film with similar vigour and nuanced genius - one of the most impressive cinematic debuts in recent memory. Claire Danes is also on top form as a good hearted but endlessly ambitious member of Welles' company, and Ben Chaplin and James Tupper are endearing presences as eccentric members of Welles' calamitous company.

As unconventional a project as it may be, Me and Orson Welles remains one of the most unashamedly lighthearted and enjoyable forays into nostalgia in many a year, breezily blending the serious with the silly while never skimping on historical fact. The addition of McKay's brilliantly combustive Welles make the theatrical rehearsal sequences a joy to behold instead of drearily formulaic, making Linklater's latest film a charm to behold for even the most cynical of audiences.

87 out of 101 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
a revelation in Christian McKay's performance in Linklater's latest
MisterWhiplash2 December 2009
Orson Welles was, if nothing else, 'something. Even his detractors, like Ingmar Bergman, said that he had an 'immense personality', and this is what is a great appeal for an actor who can embody the full emotions of the man, and look like him second. Richard Linklater, the director, has an ace up his sleeve with the casting of Christian McKay- an actor who is a relative newcomer in film- that is just about right. It's actually a case where the actor, perhaps due to the personality/character of the man he's portraying, upstages others around him.

This is good (as is McKay, being in his 30's, making 22-at-the-time Orson appear or act older/wiser), since Welles is a man who could take over a room, and in fact was looked upon to do so with his Mercury theater players, who couldn't even do much rehearing or anything until he showed up. McKay goes into every little gesture or facial expression with gusto and, equally, some sublty when called for like when talking about his pet project of the Magnificent Ambersons.

It's almost so good a performance as Welles that you should see the movie just for him: fans of the director/actor/legend will want to see him brought to life and made in respectful homage, and non-fans will be marveled by a thespian bringing another thespian to life. There is a downside, however, in Linklater's casting (not so much with the supporting roles as they vary between being very good like the guy playing Joseph Cotten aka 'Joe the lady's man' to decent like Ben Chaplain as Coulouris) with Zak Efron. It's admirable that he's trying to get past his days of High School Musical and build up an actual career, but he doesn't breathe enough life into his coming-of-age character Richard to make him more than just passable. He's a cute kid, yet he's not really able to meet up to the dimensions of the character (which, to be fair, are kind of thin).

Linklater's film is inherently interesting dramatization just on the main subject matter: Welles and the Mercury theater putting on the daring production of Julius Caesar that would propel him and his troupe into the first real spotlight. However the film is most interesting and gets its main dramatic fire when it focuses on the rehearsals and some of the backstage antics (i.e. an accidental setting-off of the sprinklers by Richard fooling with matches), not so much the quasi-love story between Clare Danes' character with Efron. It's not got anything we haven't seen before, even in the sort of whimsical fable that Linklater lays out. The conclusion of their relationship is wise- as is how Welles 'deals' with Richard late in the film- but ultimately one kind of sighs and sits through a lot of so-so acting/pouting by Efron in order to get to the juicier scenes with Welles. But, as I mentioned before, it's worth a full-price pretty much on the basis of Welles and McKay. As Welles himself could be: exceptional and/or decent at once. 7.5/10
32 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Welles lives
motta80-21 October 2009
Orson Welles is alive and well and residing in the body of British actor Christian McKay! McKay is simply stunning here as Welles - the look, the eye-brow, the mannerisms, the bounce, the voice - never have i seen Welles, as a character, better done. Many have tried few have succeeded (although i have a soft spot for Vincent D'Onofrio's Welles-cameo in Ed Wood.

The same can be said in general for Richard Linklater's film in terms of featuring Welles and using the whole "putting on a show" theatrical device. I didn't like Oliver Parker's Fade To Black with Danny Huston hamming Welles. RKO 281 was solid and Tim Robbins' Cradle Will Rock was a noble, if unsatisfyingly drear effort. Aided by McKay's towering achievement, a (mostly) superb supporting cast and a deft lightness Linklater has delivered his best film in years.

To my mind he can be hit (Dazed & Confused, Before Sunrise) and miss (A Scanner Darkly, Fast Food Nation), but this is firmly in the hit category.

Other non-Welles films, such as Kenneth Branagh's In The Bleak Mid-Winter, have failed in their attempts to have fun at "putting on a show" format because they are too in love with moments that have that "you just had to be there" element. Christopher Guest made a go of it in Waiting For Guffman, but then he was mocking the pretensions so many others embrace as part of the scene. Somehow McKay's (as Welles) enormous personality and Linklater's breezy "makes it look so easy" style make you feel like you are there in Me & Orson Welles and it works to great effect - tantalising the viewer with moments and flashes of the play to come without giving it to you until the right time. The 'Me' of the title really becomes the viewer. You are swept along me both filmmaker and Orson (and it really does feel like Orson. After a few moments i never doubted the Linklater had somehow resurrected Welles and saddled him with Zac Efron!) And this brings me the film's one real problem (and surely a marketing nightmare for the distributors!) Now i'm no Efron hater, i haven't seen any of the HSM movies, but he was fine in both Hairspray and 17 Again but here he has to register in a fantastic ensemble of actors and he simply doesn't. Admittedly he is hamstrung a little by the role. Since the story and Linklater's direction make the viewer feel like 'Me' observing Welles as he creates his legendary production of Julius Caesar and the Mercury theatre company it is easy to kind of forget about Efron's Richard, or at least to dismiss him as Welles so often does. He just makes no impression at all. He's not bad he's just not really significant.

This leads to the inevitable problem that as we reach the films final act, once the play is done and Welles is off screen you feel like the movie is over. You've seen everything there is to see here, it is time to move along. But no, because Efron's story is unresolved so we get another 10 minutes of him and his ending. But you simply don't care. Once McKay/Welles had gone off with his supporting cast the movie was over, it just didn't know it! Amongst the supporting cast Claire Danes continues in display as easy charm, effortlessly likable and curiously beautiful in her quirky angular way. Zoe Kazan (last seen in Revolutionary Road) is a delight as the underused other woman in Efron's life (although if she'd been used more it would have meant more Efron, less Welles so maybe that's a blessing in disguise). James Tupper is excellent as Joseph Cotten, a great match for McKay's Welles. If they ever (God forbid) remake The Third Man they have the cast! Ben Chaplin is also marvellous as George Couloris. I'm constantly impressed by Chaplin and have no idea why he isn't a bigger name. Kelly Reilly doesn't have much to do but look gorgeous, which, naturally, she does with ease. Eddie Marsan seems miscast as John Houseman. I like Marsan but he didn't fit the bill for me here.

Ultimately this is McKay's show. He gives an electrifying performance at the center of a movie that while it is about Welles efforts to put on Julius Caesar is a charming, funny and swift-paced joy; but unfortunately it also has to make space for Zac Efron and his own storyline and there-in lie the flaws.

How you market this i don't know! I can't imagine Efron fans getting excited about a film set in the 1930s about the creation of an historic theatrical production staged by a man who's been dead for 25 years! And on the flipside i nearly didn't see it because i dismissed it, on first awareness, as a Zac Efron movie and so not for me. Only on a second invitation did i notice it was directed by Linklater (always interesting, if not always successful) which charged my want to see it.

Ultimately though if you want to see it because you're an Efron fan, well go see it because your guy's in it and because you'll get to see something a bit different from what you're used it. And maybe you'll like it. If you're not an Efron fan, never fear, you can all but forget he's there and just enjoy Linklater at his breezy best and the best performance of Welles on screen since the great man departed this earth (and took possession of McKay!)
55 out of 65 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A whirlwind week in the life of Richard Samuels (Zac Efron)....
dave-390512 August 2009
I expected this film to be a slight disappointment, but I was quite wrong about that!! The reason I was worried was Zac Efron. I'm a huge fan of Orson Welles and got very excited when I heard a film about the Caesar production was being made, but I thought this was too big a step for Efron. However he proved himself more than capable, and gives a very strong performance as Richard Samuels - a teenager who finds romance everywhere in life and yearns to act in bigger productions than school plays... who chances on Orson Welles and manages to talk/sing his way into Caesar.

Christain Mckay's performance as Orson Welles is equally impressive, as is Clare Danes as the ambitious yet charming Sonya Jones, and what's more the period (1930s New York) is captured brilliantly in the film, with great attention paid to language, location and costume.

In short: very, VERY entertaining and should appeal to a wide demographic - including Zac fans and doubters alike!!
43 out of 51 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Just when you thought Linklater's body of work couldn't get any more erratic...
Charlene Lydon14 January 2009
Me and Orson Welles is a wonderful story of a young boy (Efron)whose only acting experience is in high school musicals (ha! See what they did there) who manages to get a small part in Orson Welles' (Adam McKay) 1937 production of Julius Caesar. The film follows the volatile relationship between Orson and his company. He is a madman, a selfish, arrogant user and an absolute genius. He knows how the politics of show-business and he knows people, and how to play them. However, for all his antics, he is powerfully charismatic and it seems generally accepted that he is a genius.

Christian McKay's performance here as Orson Welles is wonderfully broad as he goes through every one of Orson Welles persona's with equal relish. He is snappy and arrogant but at the same time warm enough to earn some affection so when he lets a character down, you feel just as played yourself. The rest of the cast were great too. Zac Efron does his best here to leap from Disney heartthrob to leading man, and I personally thought he was solid and likable, with just enough of a sparkle in his eye and just enough skill to keep it there.

Overall this film has a charming story, which ends on such a high note I didn't know whether to smile or cry. It also boasts a very strong cast and most importantly a sweet disposition that stayed with me for a good half hour after the credits rolled.
38 out of 45 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Perfect blend of coming-of-age and theatre
napierslogs26 August 2010
The "me" in "Me and Orson Welles" is Richard (Zac Efron) a high school student who gets himself a part in Orson Welles' production of Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theatre. He's the kind of kid that loves everything creative in the world, is romantic, and is confident and sure of himself. Well, that is until he's alongside Orson Welles. Christian McKay plays Welles as the cocky and out-spoken man that I'm sure he was.

Directed by Richard Linklater, he has managed to turn this coming-of-age film into a Shakespearean theatrical production. My living room was transported into a theatre house, and I was watching a play. The lighting and score mirrored the production and its time; the actors were all right on cue; and backstage became the forefront.

This film is not a biopic, it's just the story of a young man discovering the acting world and the real world -- all alongside one of the most dramatic artists of the time. Romance was added to the storyline, along with a touch of self-discovery and world wonderment -- but that was done beautifully and softly. "Me and Orson Welles" is the perfect blend of coming-of-age and theatre.
18 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Great portrayal of Welles in a charming film
death-hilarious6 September 2008
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.

71 out of 93 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A beautifully crafted film
Andrew Marshall8 December 2009
I have seen a couple of good reviews of Me and Orson Welles, so decided to go and see whether they were merited. I'm pleased to report that the film certainly impressed me.

The film focuses on the rehearsals and opening of the play Caesar starring Orson Welles in 1937. Nominally Zac Efron plays the lead as Richard Samuels who is almost 18 and yearning to become an actor. A chance encounter with Orson Welles outside the Mercury theatre leads to Richard being cast as Lucius. Welles was one of those larger than life characters who had so much talent that they could get away with having a rather inflated ego.

This is the first time I have seen Zac Efron on screen and I have got to say he played the role of the star struck teenager very nicely. The character is full of dreams and it certainly resonates long after the film has finished.

If Christian McKay does not get a supporting actor Oscar nomination for his Orson Welles portrayal it will be a travesty. He is quite simply superb. I've always found Claire Danes very engaging and she is also very good in this as are a number of the supporting cast including Ben Chaplin and Zoe Kazan.

If you are after traditional blockbuster fare from your movies then you are probably well advised to skip Me and Orson, but if you like an intelligent film that is well scripted, well directed (by Richard Linklater) and well acted then it's a must see.
24 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Coming of age in a hurry
Red-1256 August 2010
Me and Orson Welles (2008), directed by Richard Linklater, is a fantasy about a fantastic event--the famed Mercury Theatre production of "Julius Caesar," directed by Orson Welles in 1937.

In the 21st Century, setting Shakespeare's plays in modern dress has become a cliché. More than 70 years ago, however, Welles' production, with its clear references to fascism, was bold and daring. It made theater history, and propelled Welles into the limelight.

Teen heartthrob Zac Efron plays Richard Samuels, who is chosen by Welles for the small role of Lucius in the production. Zoe Kazan plays Gretta Adler, a young woman whom Richard meets in the New York Public Library. Claire Danes is Sonja Jones, Welles' assistant, who is rising in the theater world through a combination of intelligence, beauty, devotion to Welles, and her willingness to get into bed with anyone who can help her career.

Effron is outgoing and attractive, Kazan is shy and attractive, and Danes again shows why she was able to captivate TV audiences in "My So-Called Life," and then move on to immense Hollywood success. (Those who know "My So-Called Life" can recognize some of the interesting techniques that Danes developed then, and has since perfected.)

The highest honors in the film, however, belong to Christian McKay, who portrays Welles, and who stars as Brutus in the production. He has an uncanny resemblance to Welles, and his acting in the movie captures the qualities for which Welles was famous--incredible talent and incredible egotism.

Me and Orson Welles is not a truly great or classic film, but it's not fluff, and it's a perfect choice if you want to see an interesting movie about interesting people. The production values are very high, the sets capture New York City in the 1930's, and the acting is wonderful.

We saw this movie on a hotel flat-screen TV . It would probably work better on a large screen, but the small screen version worked well enough. It's definitely a movie worth finding and seeing.
13 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
TIFF 08: Quadruple space…Me and Orson Welles
jaredmobarak14 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
When I saw that Richard Linklater had a new film at the Toronto International Film Festival and that it took place during Orson Welles' run at the Mercury Theatre, I was very interested. Me and Orson Welles is based off a novel which creates a fictional character to be our entry point into the tumultuous world of Welles' troupe, attempting to get a performance of Julius Caesar out the gate. Young Richard Samuels finds and cons his way into a small part with the play, meeting the likes of Joseph Cotton, George Coulouris, and Welles all before Citizen Kane made them Hollywood players. Centering on a more specific period of time, not sprawling out to multiple plot lines like Robbins' opus, Me and Orson Welles is an authentic view of that time period, a veritable time capsule of Welles' ego before he had the film industry in the palm of his hand.

I've never seen High School Musical or Hairspray, but just looking at Zac Efron you can't help but think nothing good could come of his casting. In my shocking surprise, he was actually quite good, and possibly perfect in the role. The entire film hinges on his believability as a cocky yet talented high schooler that talks his way onto a high profile performance while he should be taking pop quizzes. This teen is unafraid to speak his mind and truly believes that he deserves the same respect as anyone else on the project, even if that means standing up to the giant that is Orson Welles. He is a kid, though, and he's naïveté comes out at numerous times, mostly to humorous effect. Embroiled in a five dollar bet with Cotton and Norman Lloyd about who can sleep with secretary Sonja first, when Richard's chance finally happens, his shyness and awkwardness add a nice slapstick comedic feel. Efron actually has a good handle on his facial expressions, helping both effectively add to the comedy while also to the realism of the time period we are watching, as far as acting style went back then—over the top and hammy.

This kid becomes a big part of Welles' life in the story. The master takes him under his wing to show the ropes of theatre, drama, and radio, grooming him with superfluities and compliments. What Richard doesn't yet realize is the cutthroat nature of the industry and how everyone will lie, cheat, and steal to get what he wants. The boy's relationships blossom with the actors and Sonja, allowing him to comfortably make a name for himself in Broadway with them. He just can't learn that sometimes you have to swallow your pride and give into someone who can't to appease them and further your own career. Richard is young though and he doesn't yet feel this is it for him, the end all be all. So, when some might think a brazen attitude and confidence could be a necessary trait in theatre, a man like Welles will have none of it. Why would a man like him want a mirror held up to his face? No, he is the leader and you will listen.

It is a shame that whenever someone is called upon to play Orson Welles, it always ends up being a caricature or impersonation. It is true with Angus Macfadden in Cradle Will Rock and it is true here with newcomer Christian McKay, found in a one-man show doing the part and cast as a result. McKay is everything you'd think about with the legend, from the brash authoritative moods to the welcoming smiles charismatically pulling you in to do whatever he wants. Definitely more an embodiment of Welles himself than a performance of a character, you can't really fault him for it. A man that recognizable can only be done with impression and McKay does it to perfection.

As for the rest of the cast, everyone is great. Eddie Marsan is a stalwart and nice practical foil to Welles' mercurial genius; James Tupper knocks Joseph Cotton out of the park, playing a lothario that tries his best to shield Richard and help him stay in Welles' good graces; Leo Bill is a lot of fun as the improviser/comedian Lloyd; and Claire Danes likable as the object of everyone's affection Sonja. There is also Zoe Kazan as the writer Richard meets one day at a record shop. She is the one link he has to the real world, grounding him away from the chaos and narcissism the acting lifestyle brings. A real person, with goals and aspirations, her Gretta allows for the best relationship with Efron's character. It is a side-plot that one could say needed to be beefed up, but I actually think comprised just the right amount of time. Only coming back into the story every so often, it was a necessary juxtaposition to the craziness in the theatre, showing us the real Richard and not the act he put on to be a success.

The story is slight even though there is a lot going on. I would even agree that Linklater has crafted such a tight piece it seems simpler than it is because he makes it so. Some instances are so good, the poet Sinner in the play slowly being surrounded by silhouetted actors onstage, that I can't get the image out of my head. That said I might blame the fact I love Cradle Will Rock so much that this one just doesn't quite compare. Me and Orson Welles is a great film, highly recommended, but to me nothing glaringly special. It's just one of those films that I can praise over and over again for its parts, but when I think of the whole, realize that it never fully resonated with me past being a well-made, well-acted piece of cinema.
16 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
F is for Fake
tedg25 April 2011
Okay, start with one of the most interesting and influential characters in film. Make a film that has him in it.

Take one of the most interesting and theatrical productions in theater, present it is as film and make the same film about its inception including chaos, the various seductions of the players and some presentation of his bellicose leadership.

Hang the thing on a story of callow discovery and you may have something. But alas, this almost succeeds on every score and it makes us unhappy because from the first we expect something worthy. We expect to be immersed somehow. "Cradle will Rock" succeeded in that respect where this did not.

One problem is there is no sense of the inner composition in Welles' mind. Sure we find he is oafish, appetite driven, needlessly obnoxious. But for each of these, there should be some window into what matters, what we came for. It sure wasn't hearing about a kid's screwups.

The impression fostered throughout is that some combination of accident, unsophisticated audience and dedicated cast/crew made the production a success. I saw this with "Hamlet 2" and as bad as that was, it was better in key ways. Above all, it tried.

Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A very entertaining film experience
Argemaluco1 July 2010
The great Orson Welles (1915-1985) is mostly famous as the director of the legendary Citizen Kane, and as the writer, actor and producer of the remarkable radio adaptation of War of the Worlds, which caused panic in the United States in 1938, when many people thought it was a real broadcast which announced the extraterrestrial invasion.But before all that, Welles founded the theater company Mercury in 1937, where he started to tune his acclaimed style.And very few things show it better than his ingenious adaptation of Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare's iconic work, in which he moved the action to Mussolini's fascist Italy.The film Me and Orson Welles weaves reality and fiction in order to tell us the adventures from Welles and his company during the preparation of that staging.The result is interesting and very entertaining, but not perfect.

Me and Orson Welles is not a biography of Welles or a serious analysis of his innovative version of Julius Caesar, but it should have may been like that.I liked this film pretty much, because the performances are good and the screenplay is always very interesting.But the plot covers so many interesting stuff that I did not feel it deepened on it as much as I would have liked.However, despite that, the film is very good, because it has various positive elements.

Claire Danes brings conviction and enthusiasm to her character, at the same time she adapts herself very well to the movie's style.Zac Efron brings a decent performance; however, he gets darkened on various occasions by Danes and specially, Christian McKay, who steals the show as Welles.The force from his performance and his overwhelming presence make him the central figure from the movie, even when he does not appear on scene.

Before watching Me and Orson Welles, I had the slight awe that director Richard Linklater's melancholic and vanguard style was not going to fit very well on a period film (as it had happened in The Newton Boys); however, it fortunately resulted to be very compatible in here, because it keeps a naughty wink to classic Hollywood conventions without loosing the dynamism and structure required to attract modern audiences.So, I think this movie deserves a safe recommendation, because even though it is not great, I enjoyed it pretty much.
7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Executive Performance
Polaris_DiB7 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Linklater taking on Orson Welles? Sign me up. The only thing really unfortunate about this movie is the title, the only justification of which I can tell is that the lead character is so young and brash that he thinks of himself before Orson Welles but ironically thinks so in grammatically incorrect terms. However, this not being backed up by an explanation, it may also just simply be a grammatically bad title. I do not know, all I know is that it's unfortunate.

Anyway, onto the actual movie itself. Orson Welles being a particularly iconic figure, not only for Citizen Kane but also for the independent film industry as a brash, young, intelligent egoist willing to stand up to the biggest of institutions, it is not surprising that independent filmmakers love to take him on. Here the story is something like Orson meeting Orson, where a younger, brash, slightly less intelligent egoist has his ten seconds of fame working side-by-side with Welles on the stage, and in the process making a dizzying, delightful, sexy ride of it, until the brakes are hit hard and bloody noses are bounced off a few dashboards.

Zac Efron plays Richard, a bored high school student who wants to be an actor (!). Or a writer (!). Or an artist (!). Or whatever, he ultimately has to admit, allows him to participate in the world where creativity meets fame. Strolling across the city one day after a very Linklaterian meeting with cute and reserved Gretta (Zoe Kazan), he manages to act as such an attention whore that he gets under the radar of none other than 37 year old Orson Welles (Christian McKay), currently producing his Nazi-themed version of Julius Caesar. Taken on board, Richard got game, but ultimately his own needy desire for recognition (and of course the always fun issue of a girl (Claire Danes)) eventually brings Orson Welles and Richard into conflict. And I mean c'mon, he's going up against Orson Welles! Actor to actor, of course, Richard doesn't stand a chance. Actor to actor otherwise, Zac Efron and Christian McKay are perfectly matched, McKay for his spot-on presentation of Welles' cigar-chewing egotism and Efron for having to hold the brunt of the movie on his back basically being the exact type of youth that once upon a time was Richard and these days is more recognized as that friend-whore on Facebook. It is like the matching of Amy Adams to Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia (what is it with these ampersands?!), where one plays a recognized historical figure to aplomb, and the other perfectly nails the navel-gazing millennial everyone despises, but it is to the actor's credit that such a vapid character ultimately ends up being engaging. To Efron's credit, he may not be perfectly embodying Orson Welles, but he is perfectly embodying the part of all of us that wants to be Orson Welles.

The rest of it, really, is all Linklater. Ultimately the shy and awkward girl is the right way to go, the intellectual discussions say more about the characters' own perspectives than about the story's themes, bright-eyed youth looks to the future despite being shackled by its own overeducated situation in too-much-free-time. Meanwhile, it is shot well, beautifully lit, drily humorous, and manages to make you feel a little sorry for Richard once he loses, even though the character deserves it. This is helped mostly by the fact that he doesn't really lose "What's Most Important" and he didn't know what he wanted in the first place. Great execution of a familiar theme.

Now. It is "Orson Welles and I"! --PolarisDiB
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
McKay is simply extraordinary, the film flawed but fascinating
Richard Burin10 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
It's little wonder that Awesome Orson, that mercurial, self-destructive titan continues to excite and energise independent movie makers like Tim Robbins (who dealt with Welles in the exceptional Cradle Will Rock) and Richard Linklater. Fiercely individualistic at a time of rigorous studio control, Welles was cut down by jealous rivals, blinkered bean counters and a virulent strain of egomania that prevented him playing the Hollywood game. Like Robbins, who charted the remarkable story of Welles' 1937 musical of a similar name, Linklater focuses on the great man's theatrical work - in this case the update of Julius Caesar that transplanted Shakespeare's work to Fascist Italy and proved the making of its director.

When a new project dealing with the Welles legend emerges, the first thing you want to know is: 'Who's playing Orson?' Who can hope to inhabit the character, with those instantly recognisable mannerisms, the peculiar speech patterns, that snub nose, that booming voice? At least 31 actors have taken on the challenge in TV and film, including Angus Macfadyen in Cradle Will Rock, Jean Guerin in Heavenly Creatures and Vincent D'Onofrio (dubbed by Maurice LaMarche) in Tim Burton's Ed Wood. Here it's RSC alumnus Christian McKay, in his feature debut. Having played Orson in the solo show Rosebud, at Edinburgh and off Broadway, McKay has had years to hone the characterisation, to transcend mimicry and caricature and tap into the very essence of the man.

He is absolutely phenomenal.

Whether seducing his players via sweetly-spoken flattery or heaping opprobrium on them, slotting cherished sections of The Magnificent Ambersons into a radio serial or lamenting his amorphous, shallow nature, McKay IS Welles. He twinkles, yells, guffaws, postures and roars. And in that one moment of heartbreaking self-awareness, his Welles reveals a compulsive need to play the chameleon, saying: "If people can't find you, they can't dislike you." It's a remarkable characterisation - and whenever McKay is on screen, the film radiates excitement. Sadly, that's not the whole story.

The movie is pegged as a coming-of-age tale, unfolding against the backdrop of Welles' legendary Caesar. Our coming-of-ager is Zac Efron, fresh from the High School Musical films. He's cast as a 17-year-old drama student who blags a way into Orson's latest show, where he finds romance with ambitious production assistant Claire Danes. At the same time, he has half an eye on aspiring playwright Zoe Kazan, who hangs around the local museum, staring at an urn. Though Efron is quite good, these conventional, unconvincing, essentially uninteresting romantic elements are given equal billing with the Welles material, leading to dips in quality and a general listlessness whenever Orson - sorry, Christian - is off-screen. That said, the scenes where Welles' influence bleeds into the behaviour of impressionable Efron are amusing and well-handled.

Shot at the Gaiety Theatre, Douglas, in the Isle of Man, Me and Orson Welles does a good job of transmitting both the stress and euphoria of life on the stage. Observer critic Philip French said of the film's Caesar: "Never before have I seen a theatrical production so brilliantly re-created". But while the film does capture the thrill of opening night and the gobsmacking ingenuity of Welles' staging, the acting in that play-within-a-film isn't as impressive - with the notable exception of McKay's Welles-doing-Brutus. In the film too, the rest of the cast appear pretty lacklustre when up against McKay. Ben Chaplin provides moments of pathos and truth as George Coulouris (who went on to play Thatcher in Citizen Kane), but his performance is often just peculiar, while Eddie Marsan appears miscast as Welles' regular backer John Houseman, and Leo Bill is a touch one-note. At least James Tupper gives a fair approximation of the young Joseph Cotten, playing him as an incorrigible skirt-chaser.

The film has a decent period atmosphere, its lively score packed with familiar period tunes. And though there's a torrent of clumsy and distracting '30s pop culture references in the first 10 minutes, the writers are thereafter more discriminating and inventive, incorporating a clever nod to The Third Man - with the character of Cotten emerging from the shadows - and an incredibly moving scene with Welles that foreshadows the ruination of his second masterpiece, The Magnificent Ambersons.

The movie is a long way from being perfect, hampered as it is by a conventional romantic subplot that eats up too much screen time. But at its best it's dazzling and in Christian McKay's Orson Welles it boasts one of the best performances of the last 10 years.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Must See
rockinrio_115 April 2010
It is very rare that when I get to the end of a film I immediately want to go back and watch it over again. Me & Orson Welles is one of those films.

Christian McKay does a terrific Orson Welles, he really seems to embody all the smallest mannerisms which made Orson so unique, and respectfully does so without just doing an Orson Welles impression. Definitely my favourite portrayal of Welles.

Efron is unusually bearable in this film and shows promise of becoming a decent actor. I loved the atmosphere inside the Mercury Theatre and the whole "waiting for Orson" thing that they had to do.

Overall I would call this a must see for all Welles fans and Linklater fans. Very absorbing and enjoyable. 8/10
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The old Lime-light....
derekcreedon31 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
A showbiz-mad Jewish schoolkid from New Jersey lands a bit-role, almost by accident, in Orson Welles' chaotically-born but groundbreaking Broadway production in modern-dress of Julius Caesar in 1937. That's the premise of Robert Kaplow's 2003 novel, one of these uneasy conceits that blur fact and fantasy but which Orson himself, with his love of illusion and fakery, would probably have endorsed even if he does end up as the 'heavy'. Richard Samuels, our hero, is also the narrator, Holden Caulfield dramatised by Neil Simon if that idea grabs you. Salinger's just died so we'll never know what he thought of it either. Accordingly Richard is cute, self-obsessed, sexually reticent and a relentless comedian with a smartass reflex in most situations. While rehearsals press ahead under Orson's galvanising tyranny, egos clash and crises are wrestled with, Richard loses his virginity like clockwork to Sonja, the ambitious production assistant he's been fixated on for a whole week. Before taking him to bed she treats him to a teary cringe-making recital of her rackety emotional life, hatred of her mother etc etc and you long to stop wasting time with these bewhiskered routines and get back to the Mercury and originality. But it gets worse. Richard thinks he's found True Love and when he finds out that Orson shares Sonja's favours as a matter of course stops being a cute comic and gets all serious, wounded and self-righteous, almost coming to blows with the Boy Wonder over his marital infidelity as you would of course (who is this kid ?) Though they appear to make up afterwards, once opening-night has been triumphantly achieved Richard finds himself out on his ear. Disillusioned he must learn to lose before he can win and all the rest of it and giving the whole theatrical experience and Mr. Orson Welles the spiritual finger decides to be a writer instead, what a relief. At least he might have better luck with Gretta, his earnest little girl-friend who's just had a short-story published (thanks to his Mercury connection, it must be said). Out they go sweetly to embrace the Big Apple together as a symbolic bluebird flies up into the sky. You couldn't make it up could you ? Well someone did. And I hope it was meant as a parody.

The movie, thankfully, gets us out of Richard's head and by employing a more slimline approach and eliminating some of the excesses (such as Sonja's maudlin confessional) makes for a reasonably buoyant entertainment despite some curious casting decisions. Richard is less irritating in transition but alas no more interesting since Zac Efron, who occupies his space, fails to transmit any discernible enthusiasm for anything around him. He's so cool he's not there. Sonja, who's twenty in the book, is played by a thirty-year-old actress who doesn't quite capture the image of the company's lust-object. Not that the Mercury boys seem too discriminating. They spend more time in locker-room conversations than the business in hand. Joe Cotten and Norman Lloyd are playfully offered as a dirty-minded double-act but George Coulouris, stiff-necked and warning of disaster, has morphed into Vittorio Gassman with a drawl out of Leslie Phillips. Impossible to swallow if you grew up watching the great veteran in forty years of pictures. But soft, who comes here, 'tis Christian McKay.

McKay is himself a good deal older than Orson was at the time. But then Orson always seemed older than he was anyway. His actual precocious theatrical youth is a veiled object to most of the living world now, imagined through the prism of history and his later greater fame, something heard in radio-recordings or glimpsed in photos and the newsreel in which he earnestly 'apologised' for scaring America witless with his Men from Mars. It's still a stretch to consider that he was no older than James Dean got to be when he played Charles Foster Kane. And for AMBERSONS (his best film potentially, I always think, why don't today's movers and shakers club together to track down the missing footage once and for all ?) he declined to appear as Georgie Minafer, preferring to remain unseen as the 'father' of the production. McKay's about the age Orson was when he played Harry Lime, his best-loved part -an impish monster who can sucker anybody into submission because his talent, self-confidence and sheer cheek seem bigger than the world's. And this is exactly what McKay gives us in his splendidly convincing incarnation, he makes you smile with pleasure. And his moments on stage as Brutus are inspired. The Mercury Theatre's first hour of glory is impressively mounted and rendered, for all the fun and fooling. It gives the film stature and is worth remembering. The teenager-fantasy stuff is negligible and its pygmy-darting won't I think hurt Orson's reputation. He was a magnificent magical maverick - even when he failed - and the world was always more exciting because he was out there somewhere beavering away at his visions and it slumped when he finally left it.

Two items of interest 1. I first came across the title-phrase fifty years ago in John Braine's novel Room at the Top when Joe Lampton joins the Thespians. 2. Though Holden Caulfield supposedly hated movies Salinger obviously named his hero from a picture-ad. William HOLDEN and Joan CAULFIELD in DEAR RUTH, Paramount, 1947.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Pretentious and phony
jm1070117 August 2014
I admire anyone who can sit through more than eight minutes of this stupid, pretentious movie. Everything about it screams "Look at me!", and when a movie's own pretensions can overshadow as flamboyant a character as Orson Welles, something is terribly wrong.

It's just one "Look at me!" moment after another. "Look at me! I'm the real 1930s New York City!" (that's the cheesy, heavily sepia-ed Hollywood backlot set talking) Then: "Look at me! I'm Zac Efron, making a REAL MOVIE! and I can play a mean drum roll! and sing a Wheaties jingle! and flirt with an ugly girl!" Then: "Look at me! I may be an unknown British stage actor, but I *AM* Orson Welles!"

That's when I gagged and ejected the DVD. I'll spare myself yet another appearance of the persistently obnoxious Claire Danes.

Viewers who think this movie is an authentic look at Welles, or an authentic look at Depression-era New York theatre, or an authentic ANYTHING, have had their minds crippled by watching way too much phony Hollywood garbage - which is exactly what this movie is.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Welles Bells
Ali Catterall26 July 2010
Over a dozen actors have played Orson Welles on screen, attempting to nail mercury; a figure equal parts charming conjurer and driven dictator. The latest challenger is Christian McKay, a British stage actor. But McKay doesn't just 'play' the great genius. Rather, like some voodoo priest, he appears to have ensnared and bottled Welles' immortal soul, in order to resurrect every tyrannical tic and mellifluous mannerism of the man who, like Vincent Price in Theatre Of Blood, had the temerity to rewrite Shakespeare. So that's the Orson Welles bit of the title accounted for.

Then there's "Me". Zac Efron's presumably here for the same reason Robert Pattinson was recently cast as Salvador Dali in Little Ashes: honey to the box office bee. In Richard Linklater's period piece he's a high schooler who lucks his way into Welles' famous 1937 production of Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theatre; a once-in-a-lifetime "opportunity to be sprayed by Orson's spit".

Compared with his co-performers, especially shock-haired Leo Bill, who fits the 1930s like a bespoke blazer, Efron's is a face and sass out of time. His is a rite de passage without a passage, a coming-of-age story in which the cocky protagonist comes, but never attains wisdom. Thus the film demands an emotional investment in a character we can't care about. Adventureland tells a similar story much better. But McKay is this film's incredible, all-conquering ace.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
If you like theatre, the thirties and despots
ThatDoesntMatter18 July 2010
A good, decent film.

Too colour-coordinated for my taste...;-)

Now, everyone's raving about the Orson Welles' character and its portrayal by Christian McKay. Well I have a different opinion. He annoyed me. It was too much, too big, too cocky, too shallow ... No-one is larger than life. That's called loud and arrogant in the real world, even vicious. Over-acting of a non-likable character whom we are supposed to revere because of his name...I'd rather watch a real baddie like Christoph Waltz's Hans Landa.

If that's what theatre is like or about then OK, all neurotics gather at that place. Better than pills or the shrink, probably...

Does great art only come from despotic behaviour by megalomaniacs?? Theatre is not THAT important...I happen to think that the way you treat people is important, and I don't like disrespect - but that's just me. (For Orson Welles is surely not supposed to be a baddie? I guess I got it all wrong...*shrug*)

So I was always trying to overcome that dislike, which did not keep me from enjoying some of the rest of the performances and characters, Greta was the most real next to Richard, maybe she was the least neurotic ...:-)

The dialogues were good, a nice film, but nothing life altering, definitely NOT a Must-See in my opinion, only if you like....(see review title)
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Masterful Christian McKay performance compensates for lackluster plot
Turfseer17 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
It's 1937 and the young Orson Welles is beginning to make a name for himself in both radio and the theater. His Mercury theater is putting on Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar' and 18 year old Richard Samuels (Zac Efron) manages to get a bit part as Lucius in Welles' new fangled production in modern dress.

There isn't much to the plot of 'Me and Orson Welles'. Richard falls for Sonja Jones (Claire Danes), Orson's production assistant who has no guilt in sleeping her way to the top. She ultimately achieves her goal in getting a date with David O. Selznick, the famous Hollywood producer who two years later will produce 'Gone With the Wind'. But along the way, she has a momentary fling with Richard who naively believes that their relationship might turn into something. After Richard realizes that Orson is bedding Sonja, he takes Joseph Cotton's advice to "fight for her" and ends up getting on Orson's bad side by accusing him of being an adulterer. Orson, the egomaniac that he is, will not tolerate any dissent from any members of his cast, let alone a neophyte 18 year old, and promptly fires Richard. But since opening night is right on the horizon, Orson has to momentarily eat crow and flatter Richard so he'll return to the show. Once opening night has come and gone, Richard learns that Orson has dispensed with him for good. Richard decides that perhaps he was never meant to be an actor and exits gracefully with a young woman who he had met earlier, an aspiring writer who he had helped get published through the assistance and good graces of ex-lover Sonja.

What makes 'Me and Orson Welles' so enjoyable is Christian McKay's performance as the narcissistic thespian. McKay is in his late 30s and looks more like the Orson Welles of the mid to late 40s than the young wunderkind of 1937. Nonetheless, if you can overlook the age discrepancy, you'll be amazed at just how believable McKay is at portraying Welles when he was just starting out.

McKay pulls out all the stops, showing us what a 'character' Orson Welles was. He was a man who was bursting with creative ideas, always experimenting until he got things right. But the path to perfection was fraught with miscues and the scenes of all the flubbed rehearsals are quite amusing. McKay is brilliant especially when he shows Welles manipulating his actors so that they will bend to his will. It's made clear from the beginning, Welles always had to be in control. But occasionally, if you did oppose him, he would be flexible enough to consider contrary ideas (he's willing to incorporate suggestions that he initially rejects from Norman Lloyd who plays Cinna the Poet in Julius Caesar).

McKay also does a great job in showing what a great actor Welles was. Particularly impressive is the scene in which McKay has Welles 'improvising' during the radio broadcast. And don't forget how McKay/Welles handles Shakespeare in the final scenes where 'Julius Caesar' is finally put on; the tremendous raves from the audience are wholly justified. Screenwriter Holly Gent Palmo must be complimented on presenting the many nuances of Welles' larger-than-life character. I loved how the 'sprinkler incident' is foreshadowed by Welles' gut conviction that an earlier calamity can somehow prevent the occurrence of a later and more devastating catastrophe.

While it's admirable that Zac Efron chose to advance his career by getting involved in a more sophisticated production such as 'Me and Orson Welles' (as opposed to earlier 'low-brow' efforts such as '17 Again' or 'High School Musical'), he doesn't quite have the experience to be totally convincing as the naïve and impressionable Richard. Equally forgettable is Claire Danes who is saddled with the non-descript part of the social-climbing Sonja. Much more to my liking is Ben Chaplin as George Coulouris playing Mark Antony. Chaplin obviously is a classically trained actor who shows his range as both tragedian and comedian (he's great as Antony on stage but also as Coulouris who has stage fright before tackling the part).

'Me and Orson Welles' is basically a showcase for Christian McKay who has had experience in playing Orson Welles before in a one-man show. If your preference is for great performances as well as theatrical history, then check out this entertaining new indie dramedy.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Bored the whole way through
When thinking about this film, the one thing that comes to mind is the scene talking about the short story - where nothing happened. I was looking forward to this movie, after all the rave reviews about it, and though it was not the worst film I've ever seen, it's definitely nowhere near the top. I spent the entire thing bored, waiting for something that wasn't monotonous to happen, and it never did. Although well acted, I had little interest in the characters or plot lines. Perhaps it's due to a lack of knowledge or understanding of Orson Welles' career, on my part, but I would not recommend this to other people.
7 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Entertaining, but more legend than fact
Morty Signalproblem29 November 2009
Richard Linklater's "Me and Orson Welles" reminds us what a young whirlwind Orson Welles was well before Citizen Kane and RKO. His film time travels us to post depression era New York where young upstart Welles was reshaping the face of theater. However, Welles' daughter reportingly enjoyed the film, as did I, but felt at times it lowers the beginning stages of Welles' career to a lackluster episode of "Sex and the City" Here's the man who created the grand-daddy of media hoaxes, directed films that re-directed the path of world cinema, was a fantastic magician, I can go on. Do we really care about a life triangle Welles is in? The actor playing Welles is pre-Citizrn Kane Welles bought to life. It is not a party-time mimic like in "Ed Wood", but a performance that picks up all the facial expressions, mannerisms, large laugh that we all admire in Orson Welles. I can see why Welles' other daughter refuses to see the film. It was also fun to see represented here, other members of Welles' Mercury Theatre- Joseph Cotten, George Coulouris, Norman Lloyd.
13 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Plucky, Delightful Fun
druid333-225 December 2009
The year is 1937. While Hitler,Mussolini & Franco are terrorizing the citizens of Europe (and are in the planning stages of World War 2), a young,17 year old drama student,Richard Samuels (played by Zac Efron,of 'High School Musical'fame) has the opportunity of a lifetime to work along side theater wunderkind,Orson Welles (played here by a dead-on Christian McKay). Welles in the early stages of a production of Shakespere's 'Julias Ceasre'. Richard falls under the spell of not just Orson Welles,but being a part of the,then "new" Mercury Theater. We get to see what transpires during the pre-production of a play,including artistic temperament (Welles was known for not being the most easy person to work with,or for),star fits (hissy fits were the norm in the theater game),and other pain in the butt issues (technical quirks,run in's with producers,etc.). In the midst of all of this,Richard takes a fancy to Orson's personal assistant,Sonja Jones (played by Clare Danes). Other looming figures in the Mercury players include:George Coulouris (Ben Chaplin),and Joseph Cotton (James Tupper),who had roles in Welles' 'Citizen Kane'later down the road. Richard Linklater (Slacker,Suburbia,A Scanner Darkly,etc.)directs from a screenplay by Holly Gent Palmo,from the novel of the same name by Robert Kaplow,in what has to be some of the finest work he has turned in,in some years. The film's musical soundtrack crackles with 1930's period popular music & hot jazz of the era (the precursor to swing). Orson Welles is painted as an ego centric,self centered,potty mouthed genius that knew exactly what he wanted from himself & his ensemble of top notch professionals. This is smart,toothsome film making that may remind some of 'My Favorite Year',from some years back. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA,this film has pervasive raunchy language from the mouth of Welles,some adult content,and some smoking,and under age drinking.
7 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The importance of not being earnest
miloc15 December 2011
Richard Linklater's film of Robert Kaplow's novel merits a watch, if only for Christian McKay's splendid evocation of the young Orson Welles. McKay has the vocal chops, the look (in profile it's uncanny) and, most importantly, the attitude. Without apparent effort, he catches the mammoth self-confidence that made Welles one of the most intimidating screen presences in cinema. I have no idea how much time and effort this actor (in his first feature film) spent in mastering the smirk Welles gives when neophyte actor Richard Samuels (Zac Efron) talks of his "lover"; in any case the work pays off. It's like a cameo by Harry Lime.

This movie uses the Mercury Theatre's celebrated production of Julius Caesar as backdrop to its rather slight story. The screenplay tells us that Welles, whatever genius he possessed, may not have been a great guy-- and, well... are we wrong to ask how much that matters? Efron, as the young hopeful who falls into Welles's considerable gravitational pull, has a certain charm and potential talent, but looks and acts somehow utterly of his own time-- we never believe him as a 1930s construct. (Possibly he hasn't watched enough old movies.) He falls in love with Claire Danes, who plays an ambitious... something, I missed exactly what her job was. Script girl? Dramaturge? Anyway, she works on the play. Danes does a decent job as whatever she is, but she and Efron generate zero chemistry. "Why am I so interested in you?" she asks at one point. I had no guesses.

If I had to speculate, I'd say that the romantic plot did not grab the director much. He does good work casting the real-life characters. Eddie Marsan makes a credible John Houseman; Ben Chaplin registers strongly as a nerve-racked George Coulouris; and James Tupper looks, sounds, and feels right as the affable young ladies' man Joe Cotten. The backstage squabbles, trivial though they may be, draw more interest than the emotional business upfront. And Linklater truly comes awake as a director in capturing performance: whether he's staging a quick radio sequence in which Welles steals the show or very finely recreating the Mercury's legendary Caesar, you get the feeling Linklater would be happiest just sitting back and watching the show. And here the movie is at its best-- far more than Tim Robbins' earnest, turgid Cradle Will Rock, this movie, absent of politics, captures the excitement of truly revolutionary theater at a time when such a thing was still possible.

In fact, that lack of earnestness may be the key here. Caesar was a great production not because it deconstructed Hitler, but because Welles gave it a sense of importance strong enough to deconstruct anything. Welles was a great artist, and perhaps more crucially he was a great bulls--t artist. Let's put it more simply: that WAS his art. This is a film about learning to bulls--t, learning when not to say what you mean, learning when not to be honest-- and that's bracing. It reminds us that trickery, deception and narcissism can be magic, and that egotism with a will to dazzle us can be more dazzling than anything we describe as "talent" and "sincerity". It's why the movie stalls when McKay is not on screen-- he convinces us he IS Orson Welles, that he is the most important man in the world-- and in defiance of logic and perspective, we buy it. And at the end of the day, that transparent and fantastic lie-- that's art.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Christian McKay dominates this film
jjnxn-113 May 2013
Enjoyable period combination coming of age and backstage comedy/drama. Efron acquits himself well, he still has a way to go before he breaks away totally from the teenyboppers but he's trying and will get there if he continues to do interesting material like this. Claire Danes is miscast, the character she plays is supposed to be an ethereal dream girl and fine actress though she may be she is not that type of woman, and that hurts the film a bit but the rest of the cast is good. The period details are well presented and the story interesting. However McKay dominates this with an amazingly accurate portrayal of Welles, he owns this movie and really should have been a presence at awards time.
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews