Me and Orson Welles TIFF 2008 Reviews – part 2

10 August 2009

Me and Orson Welles

Here is the second post with reviews from Me and Orson Welles coming out of TIFF 2008. These reviews are all from private blogs etc, not professional critics. In that respect it’s important to keep in mind that many of them are not trying/claiming to give a fair, balanced or objective review; they are personal comments and the authors are entitled to them, even if you can see their bias from a mile away.

The TIFF08 reviews from film critics can be found here.

RuViews, Ruth Rankin, 5 September 2008

Me and Orson Welles

Me and Orson Welles opened at Ryerson theater today. As I was standing in line, you could feel the excited energy of the teenage girls waiting to catch a glimpse of teen heartthrob, Zac Efron. As he took the red carpet, the shrill shrieks started. Granted there weren’t too many, but still enough to make your eardrums bleed. Claire Danes also starred in the film and took the red carpet right before Zac did, but didn’t have quite as boisterous reception.

Now to the film, Me and Orson Welles was directed by Richard Linklater, the same man who brought us Dazed and Confused and School of Rock. It was based on the play by Robert Kaplow and tells the story of a young man coming to New York to act and how he gets involved with Welles’ theater group at the Mercury theater and their production of Julius Caesar in 1937- a little bit different subject matter than his past films. I have to say I wasn’t really sure going into this film as to whether this cast could pull off the movie. First, the unknown actor, Christian McKay playing the literally larger than life character of Orson Welles, and then Zac Efron being cast in this non-musical/ non-Disney movie – both questionable.

But I admit, there was nothing to be skeptical about. Christian McKay gave a brilliant performance full of wit and charisma and Zac Efron’s new kid in the city was incredibly charming and believable – he can really act!. Richard Samuels (Efron) comes to the big city to live out his dream. He is the typical wide eyed, optimistic youth ready to take the world by storm. He accidentally encounters Welles on the street, and charms his way into being cast in his Julius Caesar production in a minor role. Richard soon finds out that the theater world isn’t quite what he thought it would be, but then again neither is Welles; he can be inspiring and encouraging one moment and tear you to pieces the next.

The play seems to be a disaster: Welles is never on time, he’s completely self involved and impossible to work with, but his sycophants will endure any punishment to be associated a Welles production. Richard has a bit of idol worship going on for Welles, but soon understands that Welles in really only interested in himself and his visions of grandeur. Richard of course falls for the company hottie, Sonja Jones (Danes), the secretary. But she is only interested in how to further her career, and sleeps with anyone to make it, (including Welles) breaking Richard’s heart in the process. This leads to the big conflict between Welles and Richard, in which Richard wants a little respect and Welles concedes on the terms that Richard goes on stage for opening night. The show has an amazing opening with rave reviews, but after the the curtain falls, Richard is fired and realizes that no one can contradict Welles without suffering in the end.

The movie had humor and heart, supplied by the two leading men. The sets and costumes were incredible, and the soundtrack was awesome. New York looked decadent in its art deco glory and the big band music really gave you a feel for the era. Overall, Me and Orson Welles was a delight to watch.

Adventures in Retail, Jonathan, 5 September 2008

TIFF, Day 1

The day’s final film was Me and Orson Welles, by Richard Linklater. This film tells the story of Welles’ production of Julius Caesar in the fall of 1937 seen through the eyes of a high school student who manages to get himself a speaking role in the play almost by accident.

Based on actual events and people, the movie captures the flavour of the time quite well, and the performances are all quite good. Christian McKay is exceptional as Welles, and if you close your eyes its hard to tell that it isn’t really him. Another solid film from Linklater.


But I Don’t Want A Blog, Heather, 5 September 2008

TIFF: Me and Orson Welles

First screening of the festival last night at the Ryerson for the world premiere of Me and Orson Welles. The film was directed by Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunset and School of Rock) and stars Zac Efron, Claire Danes, Ben Chaplin and the fantastic newcomer Christian McKay as Orson Welles.

The story takes place over a week in 1937 and centers around a young actor (Efron) who gets a shot at a small role in the broadway production of Ceasar and gets pulled into the politics and backstage antics of the theatre troupe. It’s based on the historical fiction novel written by Robert Kaplow and I was surprised to learn in the discussion afterwards how much of the story was factual. It was a solid movie and I enjoyed it, though I wouldn’t put it on my ‘must see’ list. I was surprised by how charming and engaging Efron was, both in the film and during the Q&A afterwards, where he deftly managed breathless questions like “Zac, what’s it like seeing yourself on the big screen?” (I mean, seriously??). Which was only topped in ridiculousness by the first question asked to Claire Danes being about My So Called Life.

VABN, Grace, 6 September 2008

seeing Richard Samuels on the big screen

I watched the premiere Premiere of Me and Orson Welles last night and I can vouch first hand that this is a well-crafted film with sold plot lines and character development. The people who watched the film is not your typical teenage girls screaming their hearts out, though there were a couple of them outside the theatre before and after the show, wanting to have an autograph. The crowd who were inside the theatre came from a wide demographic but typically professionals ranging from late 20s to 50s. The theatre was packed as people were lining up hours outside the theatre to get good seats.

Before the start of the movie, the director, Richard Linklater and the two casts, Claire Danes and Zac Efron spoke briefly to the audience. During the short introduction, Claire and Zac admitted that this is their first time to see the entire movie; thus they will also be watching it with us (they did).

The movie took almost 2 hours and can I say – it was a cinematic delight. The movie relied on the sheer acting talents of all its stars, principally the acting of Christian McKay who played the colossal sized ego of Orson Welles. Zac played the role of young Richard who saw and experienced up close the production of Welles’ Julius Caesar in Mercury Theatre. Claire plays the role of charming and ambitious Sonja with wit and confidence. All the other supporting casts in the theatre group gave memorable performances as well.

During the movie, the audience laughed and cheered at the light moments of the film, which provided contrasts to the high drama of the character of Orson Welles. Christian McKay played the role of Orson Welles with so much energy and passion; it was his acting that electrified the audience. The movie is a visual delight with the 1937 costumes and setting; the 1940’s music provided the feel of the time.

At the end of the movie, the director and principal casts, Claire Danes, Zac Efron and Christian McKay went up to the stage to the cheers and applause of the audience. During the question and answer portion, Zac said that he was happy to finally have a serious role in MAOW. He said that this was different for him; and educational to be acting along side Claire Danes and Christian McKay. He was also asked how he felt seeing this face in the big screen and he said it was weird but he is getting used to it by now (this is his second film).

Having seen Zac in HSM 1 and 2, I was pleasantly surprise to see Zac portray a young sensitive soul experiencing life in the theatre and coming to grips with the realities of life. I saw charm and innocence as well as emotions of pain, anger and disappointment in his portrayal of young Richard. I thought it was a good choice of role for him to break out from musical films into the direction of serious acting. An avid HSM teen moviegoer can still relate to him as he plays a romantic and idealist teen experiencing life’s adventures. His character sings a bit in the play too.

Also, this kind of role exposes Zac to an older and more matured crowd. A middle-aged woman who sat beside me asked what other movie Zac is in. I suppose a lot of these people have not watched HSM or Hairspray. With a warm reception after this night, these people will see Zac more than just his Adonis like features. They will see and appreciate Zac, the actor

On the lighter note, in the big screen, seeing Zac’s handsome face was surreal. His eyes are so expressive. He looks gorgeous too in real life.

Reading Books, 6 September 2008:

TIFF 08: Me and Orson Welles

Me and Orson Welles tells the story of a young teenager who wants to go into the theater and finally gets his chance with Orson Welles’s production of Julius Ceaser but the film is about so much more than that. It is a portrait of a man who is witty and brilliant but sometimes cruel also (he cheats on his pregnant wife). It is sometimes nostalgic (references to The New Yorker, Richard Rogers and much more) and is in many ways the best film I have ever seen about the theater. Me and Orson Welles was a movie that surpassed every expectation I had. It is a film that can be furiously funny, unbelievably acted and as unbelievable an experience as actually seeing the production of Julius Ceaser would be. The film despite being set in the 1930’s feels fresh and new. The cast of the film is wonderful. Zac Efron gives the type of performance that shows that yes he can act and not have his role be all about singing (although he does sing twice in the movie). Claire Danes does a great performance that feels right out of the style of the 1930’s ingenue. But the best actor in the film is the one you haven’t heard of. Christian McKay gives a performance that is so great, it is on par I would guess with even Welles’s best work. The direction of the film by Richard Linklator is his best work on film yet. It was simply a great film. During the Q and A, the last question asked was simply “How Will You Top That?”. How indeed.

Skirl | Dan Dickinson, Dan, 6 September 2008:

Me and Orson Welles

When the line for Me And Orson Welles (tiff) started to move into the theatre and abruptly stopped for ten minutes, I knew what was happening: the stars had arrived. At the Ryerson the line crosses the red carpet, so when the limos pull up they stop the line and let the celebrity masturbation start.

I was well back in the line and didn’t see the arrival or star-walk down the media phalanx, but as I got closer I could hear it. I didn’t stop to see who it was all the teenage-girl shrieking was for, and I couldn’t remember who was in this movie except for Claire Danes, so it wasn’t until I got into a seat and checked the cast list that I realized who it was.

Zac Efron. Of High School Musical fame. Oh, splendid.

Right after I figured this out two girls in their late teens — maybe even early twenties — sit behind me and start gushing. “Ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod…he is, like, SO famous!!!” And so on. I’m thankful that there were more film fans than Efron fans in the theatre, since when director Richard Linklater was introduced, he got the biggest round of applause of the day (followed by Mr. Efron when he took the stage). Finally the film began.

The film was really quite good. It was set in New York in the 30s, and the first time on the big screen for the actor playing Welles, who did a great job. I actually felt a little bit sorry for Efron, since he just couldn’t keep up with the actors around him, but it didn’t ruin the film. I had to give Linklater credit for taking on a project like this, working from a book that seems awfully far from his usual work.

The Q&A afterward was an embarrassing string of questions to Efron from swooning girls (like the 12-year-old in front of me who pouted and practically beat her mother bruised when neither of them could get their camera working well enough to capture Zac’s dreaminess) and someone even asked Claire Danes about My So Called Life? Tragic. I left the theatre hoping to escape the swooning. Clearly I’d forgotten what I was seeing next.


The Cinematic Experience of Forizzer, 6 September 2008:

TIFF Review: Me and Orson Welles

Richard Linklater’s latest is a unique tale for him: a period comedy about Orson Welles’ stage production of Julius Caesar. This film is adapted from a novel by the same name; a book that received vast acclaim. Trusting one of the most versatile directors of the past 15 years was a great choice, if not a shaky one. Linklater’s ability to hop around genres is unmatched by most anyone in cinema today; going from one of the most beloved modern romantic films in history, to a kaleidoscopic animated film to so many other types of film – the point being that this is his first periodic film. Mirroring the direction that the majority of films in the coded days had, Linklater molds the delightfully upbeat script into a moving image that is delightful for all ages: whether it be the teenagers of today or the elderly that loved early cinema when they were young; the film transcends age.

Though he does a grand job creating the right atmosphere, there are some faults with his overall direction of the film. For one, he overplays the significance of the romantic entanglement between Richard and Sonja. He makes it far too schmaltzy for most people’s liking and it detracts from the main focus of the film in the play. Actually come to think of it that is really his only major mistake in making the film. There are a few more missteps here and there, but nothing significant. This marks Linklater’s most pleasant film to date and certainly the one I cannot to watch again and again, despite the flaws the film has.Adapted for the screen by first time writers in the Palmo siblings (Holly Gent & Vincent Jr.) from the novel by Robert Kaplow wasn’t an easy task. For one, the novel was very coarse and risque in subject matter, whereas the Palmo’s felt this would appeal to a much wider audience if the crudeness was kept low-key. They also felt that the story would benefit from having a glossy feel; one that both mimics and mocks the cute innocence of early cinema. However, keeping these two restrictions in mind, the Palmo’s create one fantastic screenplay filled with love, laughs & lessons. As first time writers their efforts are (unusually) not for not. They worked tremendously on creating a lavished script and it paid off well in the end. One may want more grit – one may want more Orson Welles, but all-in-all this is a surefire crowdpleaser.

The story revolves around a young man, Richard Samuels (Zac Efron) who lives in the New York area. After coming home from school one day, he walks into a soda shop. The story picks up as a cute coincidence that Richard just happens to bump into a girl who is about the same age as him admiring the same novel as him. Being the charmer he is, he walks over to the piano and plays a nifty little tune that is sensational to the one girl. We then find out her name is Muriel (Kelly Reilly). With a brief introduction of young Richard’s musical genius, he and Muriel walk around town for a few minutes before opportunity knocks at Richard’s door. He is across the street from the Mercury Theater – a man is trying to play a drumroll but is failing miserably. Being the very confident man he is, Richard approaches this situation and executes a perfect drumroll. It just so happens that Orson Welles (Christian McKay) leaves the Mercury Theater at the time he hears this drumming. Being spontaneous, Welles immediately offers the young man a part in his production of Julius Caesar in a charming, humorous manner. It being: Orson: “Do you play the lute?”. And with that singular, anti-climatic line we’re off.

As the film progresses we get the feeling that Orson Welles is an edgy man; sometimes neurotic, sometimes fun-loving, but always conniving. The script thrives on making Orson Welles out to be a protagonist of a Dickie Greenleaf-esque proportion.Throughout the film Richard meets a “cold bitch” named Sonja (Claire Danes) who is Orson’s secretary of some sort. Richard works closely with Sonja and within moments of them being on the same screen together you already feel a warming passion flow through the two. This film is an excessively pleasant film through and through; whether it be the larger scope of it being a lovely told story about a (somewhat) inspiring story or it being a film that effectively uses early cinema icons in a comedic text – a stage frightened, timid, superstitious Joseph Cotten whose limited presence shines through, the film just nurtures every possible need.

The performances were nothing special (excluding the man I’m going to mention in a bit). Zac Efron was much better than I had anticipated going into the film. I know hes helmed films as the lead actor before, but with such a fragile concept in need of an adequate actor to fill the shoes of Richard Samuels I was worried Efron wouldn’t deliver. However, his acting chops are actually pretty great when it comes down to it. He had all the 30’s gestures (both physical and vocal) down pat, good execution on the key scenes and he just had that general enlightened aura about him in the role. I’m both surprised and glad to say that Efron was very good in this film. Everyone else was fine in their roles – Edie Marsan was very good in his role as the theater owner, Claire Danes was good as her role as the love interest & James Tupper was great in his small role as Joseph Cotten. In fact, I wish there was a bit more Cotten in the film so I could feel Tupper was used at least somewhat appropriately. However, however, however! Christian McKay made the cast. I mean, he made the film. His performance alone was worthy of a five minute standing ovation. His pin-point accuracy of Orson Welles is astonishing. The voice, the appearance, the raw emotion, the known Welles’ mannerisms – all perfect. Christian McKay was flawless. Absolutely perfect. Worthy of an Oscar? Worthy of ten. One of, if not, the finest performance(s) based on a real life person I’ve seen in the past decade. See it for McKay. [8/10]

According to Dave, Dave Samojlenko, 6 September 2008:

TIFF 08 – Day 2 – Black Comedies Abound

Later on we saw the new Richard Linklater film, Me and Orson Welles. I’d really been looking forward to this one, and it was great – I was a touch tired though and a few parts of the film dragged a bit. But Linklater is a master film maker and as always he pulls some incredible performances from his actors, in particular Christian McKay who played Orson Welles. I took a bunch of vid of the Q&A after, I’ll try to get that uploaded soon.

Film Junk, Greg, 6 September 2008:

Greg’s 2008 TIFF Report: Day 2

My next film is the new one from Richard Linklater, director of Dazed and Confused, Suburbia, School of Rock and the remake of the Bad News Bears. This one is called Me and Orson Welles. The film is set in 1937 and is about a teenager who gets cast by Orson Welles in the Mercury Theatre production of Julius Caesar. The teenager is played my friend Elaine’s new love intrest…Zac Efron. Yeah…the kid from High School Musical. He was there (and quite orange) and I was a few feet from him and briefly thought of abducting him for her because that’s what friends do for each other. Abduct celebrities that their friends want to molest.

The guy playing Orson Welles was someone I had never heard of, Christian McKay, and I’m not sure he’ll do anything else after this. He was good, but all he really did was an Orson Welles impression for two hours and I’m not sure you can make a career like that. The movie itself was pretty decent although Clare Danes is looking really old. What happened to her so-called life? See what I did there? Ha!

A Lit Chick, 7 September 2008:

TIFF 2008: Me and Orson Welles

Me and Orson Welles (U.K., 2008) directed by Richard Linklater, (AMC Theatre 3) based on the novel by Robert Kaplow (107 minutes)

Utterly charming and intimate and a terrific way to start the festival on my first day after the disappointment of Burn after Reading. It depicts one week in the life of Orson Welles (played brilliantly by the English theatre actor Christian McKay) and an aspiring young teenage actor named Richard Samuels (Zac Efron of Highschool Musical 1 and 2 fame) as Welles prepares for the premiere of a production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at the revolutionary Mercury Theatre in New York in November of 1937. The photo above is taken from that 1937 production with Welles as Brutus and Arthur Andersen as Lucius, the role that Efron plays in the production.

I thought to myself, with a laugh, that my 11 soon-to-be-12 year old will be sooo angry with me as the actor Zac Efron was at the screening and spoke briefly before the film. And he was surprisingly good as the ambitious actor who finagles his way into the production and clashes with Welles over his infatuation with Sonja (Claire Danes), a lovely Vassar girl and Welles’ right hand “man” in the theatre who can operate with the best of them to get her own way. Welles, monstrous ego and all, finds a way to eliminate the boy from the production after the opening night despite the boy’s loyalty and constancy because he dares to challenge Welles.

Mckay, who was in a one man show in New York about Welles where Linklater found him, plays him as a charming, irascible, devious, hot tempered, brilliant egomaniac who manipulates everyone around him – from the troupe of Mercury Theatre actors, investors, various paramours, to his deceived and pregnant wife Virginia.

The costumes and New York scenes are picture perfect … perhaps too much so? It lacks that gritty quality that a New York street has no matter when it is meant to be staged. Everything is clean and shiny and the clothes well pressed and everything just so. Surprisingly, none of it was shot in New York but on a stage in England which Linklater revealed at the screening.

Linklater was friendly and eloquent despite a couple of feeble questions from the audience. McKay was charming and lovely and a perfect evocation of the young Welles. He spoke about resisting the constant comparisons to the young Welles whom he once thought of as a “fat failure”.

last night with riviera, Matt Riviera, 10 September 2008:

The Truth about Orson Welles (TIFF08 – Day 4)

Today’s first film split our party right down the middle. Half of us despised Richard Linklater’s new film, while the other half – of which I was part – tremendously enjoyed this romp through the colourful world of the New York stage.

Me and Orson Welles takes a bland, naive actor (played, appropriately, by Zac Efron) and puts him in the right place at the right time: outside the Mercury Theatre as Orson Welles is casting for Julius Caesar. More narrative device than three-dimensional character, this pseudo-Holden Caulfield takes us on Altman-esque tour of 1930’s Broadway theatre.

Is there anything Linklater can’t do? The versatile filmmaker’s new comedy is a thoroughly entertaining ensemble piece full of effortless insights into theatre, fame and ambition. Unfolding at a brisk pace in lovingly recreated 1930’s broadway, the film features a superb central performance by Christian McKay as Orson Welles. Clare Danes, Eddie Marsan, Ben Chaplin and James Tuper round out the terrific cast as the great director’s famous collaborators. Brannagh couldn’t have done it better.

pyrocitor @, 5 September 2008 (no link):

Breezy, nostalgic celebration of film and theater and one of the most dynamic figures to impact them

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.


larry-411 @, 6 September 2008:

Saw the World Premiere last night in Toronto

Last night I attended the World Premiere of Me and Orson Welles here at the Toronto International Film Festival. This film is the latest from Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Fast Food Nation). Linklater led a Q&A afterward with stars Claire Danes, Zac Efron, and Christian McKay. Danes had a few My So-Called Life fans in the audience (“wow, I was only 13,” Danes protested) and even the staid film festival crowd was broken up by squeals at the sight of mega-teen-idol Efron. I shot the Q&A and hope to post those pictures as soon as I can.

Me and Orson Welles is a brilliantly original period piece set in 1937, based on true events in the life of the legendary artist Orson Welles and his brief association with a 15-year-old (17 in the film) aspiring actor.

It was unique and enjoyable, and the audience cheered at the end. Usually a good chunk of the crowd leaves before the Q&A but most stayed.

For those who feared Efron didn’t belong in this film, fear not. He really carries this film along with Claire Danes and Christian McKay. I didn’t see him as being miscast at all. It’s actually a similar character to those he played in the HSM films — a bit innocent and vulnerable while trying to be grown up and mature.

I think it could be a critical and commercial success if people can get comfortable with the pacing of it. It’s a period piece and the look and feel of it is relaxed. It’s a lot slower than most films that young people, in particular, are used to seeing. It’s like a throwback to the “old days” of classic cinema.

This was only the first screening (the actors hadn’t even seen it yet) so I’m sure it will get a distributor.

I wish I could say more but I’m under a tight schedule…just wanted to stop by and report a bit about the film and the evening’s festivities.

blogTO, Tim Shore, 9 September 2008:

Me and Orson Welles

I liked this film as much as I could probably have liked any period piece about the story of a high school kid and Orson Welles putting on a production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in 1930’s Manhattan.

Directed by Richard Linklater, the film is well crafted although I found the ending a little heavy on the fromage. Christian McKay is the real relevation here and delivers an Oscar worthy performance as the mercurial and bombastic Welles. Almost so that Claire Danes and Zac Efron seem merely along for the ride.

Post screening, with a packed house at the Ryerson (again), the director and actors were subject to a somewhat embarrassing Q&A as teen girls insisted on asking Efron a series of lame questions (he replied with lame answers) and asked Danes to reminisce about her experience on My So Called Life. -TS

Critically Speaking, Andy Sayers, 12 September 2008:

Me and Orson Welles

Richard Linklater’s new film is a small tribute to an earlier time, infused with the “let’s put on a show” mentality that it examines with this look at a young Orson Welles, a talented primadonna staging his adaptation of Julius Caesar, through the eyes of Disney Family superstar Zac Efron. Efron had decent presence as a leading man, the problem is that the film itself felt so slight that with a few edits for content, it felt like it could’ve been a Disney Family production. It kind of reminds me of a cartoon I watched as a kid about Benjamin Franklin that followed the inventor and statesman from the perspective of a mouse. Well, here Efron is the mouse, and Orson Welles is the egomaniac inventor (lucky for Efron’s Richard, Welles doesn’t put him in a kite during a thunderstorm).

Verdict: Average – There’s nothing particularly wrong with Linklater’s film, but there’s nothing particularly right about it either. The whole thing is a bit of a lark, and is too minor to get excited about either way.

The Mad Hatter @ The Dark or The Matinee, 12 September 2008:


Quite honestly – I chose this film based on the previous work of director Richard Linklater. The man responsible for DAZED & CONFUSED and WAKING LIFE has been responsible for some of the most maverick movies of our time. Then again, he was also responsible for remaking BAD NEWS BEARS and THE NEWTON BOYS. Could the real Richard Linklater please stand up?

For an edgy filmmaker, Linklater plays ME AND ORSON WELLES rather safe. The story is all about Welles directing/dictating The Mercury Theatre through their 1937 production of Julius Caeser on Broadway. Just as the production begins rehearsals, Welles (Christian McKay) is impressed by a crackerjack kid named Richard (Zac Efron) and adds him to the cast in a bit part. As the weeks go on, Richard bears witness to the madness and genius that is Orson Welles.

Efron’s work in the movie is mostly harmless – by that I mean that the teen idol manages to get through his lines without tripping over the set. He doesn’t dazzle, but neither does he annoy…which I suppose is all one can ask of a Disney star these days when they try to go legit. Unfortunately, I’d have to use the “mostly harmless” critique for Claire Danes as well when describing her work as Mercury secretary Sonja, the girl that every guy in the company wants. Efron’s a newbie, and still has that new car smell. Danes has been on the scene for fifteen years now. She should be able to pull out something better than “mostly harmless”.

Gripes about Efron and Danes aside, this movie is in fact well worth seeing for one very big reason – Christian McKay’s portrayal of Orson Welles. Besides getting many of the legend’s mannerisms and expressions eerily accurate – McKay’s vocal impression of Orson Welles is spot on. He channels the ego and incorrigibility of the talented thespian, and much like the man himself becomes impossible to ignore in every scene he is in, which is pretty much all of them. As if McKay’s Welles isn’t dazzling enough, the movie also features James Tupper portraying Mercury player Joseph Cotton with equally amazing accuracy. Tupper actually scores the film’s best moment, when he gives Cotton’s role in THE THIRD MAN a friendly wink.

The movie isn’t going to earn any Oscars, and likely won’t even make any top ten lists. However, the movie is a good one, and could actually create some interest in Welles, Cotton, and The Mercury Players among younger audiences who see this movie for that certain mop-topped heart throb.

This was the final showing of ME AND ORSON WELLES at TIFF 08. It does not yet have wide release information. Give it a look, then go rent CITIZEN KANE and THE THIRD MAN.

I Can’t Believe I Ate The Whole Thing!, Astin, 12 September 2008:

Penultimate TIFF

Me and Orson Welles

With a few drinks in me, I powerwalked from the subway to the theatre a city block away. Released some of the beer back into the wild, and found a seat in the balcony with minutes to spare.

The plot goes thusly: A teenager, Richard Samuels (Zac Efron), in 1937 New York talks his way into a small roll in Orson Welles’ (Christian McKay) production Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theatre a week before curtain. He quickly learns his part and spends the next week rehearsing, falling in love with Orson’s assistant (Claire Danes), and trying to survive the larger-than-life genius of Welles.

On it’s own, and with Zac Efron, this hardly sounded like an appealing film for my limited selection. Except for one thing – it was directed by Richard Linklater.

I didn’t realize he had nothing to do with the writing of it though. In fact, I didn’t realize that until the credits rolled. Linklater’s loved for films like Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Waking Life, and A Scanner Darkly. They’re movies that thrive on the conversations, and in the case of the the latter two, the rotoscoped visuals that add to the conversations.

So doing a film set during the rise of Welles’ career, in 1937 New York seems like a good fit for him. Lush visuals, rapid-fire conversation, and a simple story that relies on the actors and their words. And fit it did.

Linklater tries a few interesting shots here and there, but for the most part the direction is safe and serves its purpose of putting the story on the screen. Although I do like the effective use of props and tight scenes to create 1930’s New York — it seems appropriately low-budget for a movie about a low-budget theatrical production. Where his talents really come through is in the direction of the actors.

By the end of the film I’d decided that Christian McKay needs to be in a TON of movies now, because he carries this film as Welles. The man knows Orson, having done a one-man theatrical show as Welles before being grabbed for this movie. His delivery, look, and speech are dead-on. He plays Orson Welles playing the character of Orson Welles (a bombastic individual who was seldom not “on”) perfectly, with brief, subtle moments where the real man comes through – in the eyes, a genuine smile, or a rage. Eventually you come to distrust every word he says, realizing he’s always playing a role. I do hope he’s not a one-trick pony though, and his ample skills at playing Welles can be transferred to other parts.

Claire Danes is Claire Danes. She’s a strong, independent woman who aggressively goes for what she wants – be it men or career. Zac Efron is very much the teen idol trying to broaden his horizons beyond Disney musicals. He tries admirably here, but still has a lot of work to do. Efron feels like someone acting. He seldom overacts (one or two scenes near the end), but he doesn’t fully embody Richard, and it leaves you somewhat detached from the film. It’s a step in the right direction though, with the right cast and crew to lead him to better things.

The rest of the cast ranges from serviceable to good as Mercury players trying to put on their first show.

The romantic subplots are kept brief and in the background. They serve mainly to advance and resolve conflict. The focus stays squarely on Richard and Orson.

There’s nothing heavy here, no life-changing message that will stick with you well after the lights have come on. It’s a week in the life of one of the greatest dramatic personalities of the 20th century, and the effect he has on those around him. The movie achieves its goal nicely. Definitely a worthwhile way to spend a couple hours.

The Wonderful World of Bombippy, Jay Kerr, 16 September 2008:

Me and Orson Welles (2008)

My favourite film of the festival this year. I can’t wait to watch it again. If Christian McKay doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Orson Welles I’ll be surprised. The man looks, sounds and acts like a young Welles.

Me and Orson Welles is a period film set in 1937 New York. Orson Welles (Christian McKay) is at the famous Mercury Theatre rehearsing the first broadway production of a Shakespearean play, Julius Caesar. He needs a young actor to fill a role and hires 17 year-old Richard Samuels (Zac Efron). Richard is drawn to the genius of Orson Welles, befriends Joseph Cotten (James Tupper) and finds time fall in love with production assistant Sonja Jones (Claire Danes).

I never would have pegged Richard Linklater to direct a film like this but he’s done an incredible job of transporting the audience back to 1937. The sets, the dialogue, the costumes, the choice of camera moves and music feel like the Hollywood of old.

Fans of Welles will enjoy a scene where Orson shows Richard a copy of “The Magnificient Ambersons” with his notes. Another scene has Joseph Cotten stepping out of the shadows a la “The Third Man”. I could go on but I don’t want to spoil the fun.

Me and Orson Welles is expected to be released in 2009. Don’t miss it!


Once more, with feeling, 14 September 2008:

TIFF-ed off.

Now onto Me and Orson Welles. Hmm. It was just okay. I wanted it to be so much more but it seemed very thrown together. Zac was cute as hell but the material just wasn’t working for him. It could have been a breakthrough role for him outside the HSM franchise but it just seemed to fall flat. And while everyone’s fussing about the guy who plays Orson Welles, I don’t think it’s enough to make this movie. Plus, who the hell decided to make Angela Chase such a beyotch? I mean, really!? In my humble opinion, she seemed more Rayanne than Angelika., 15 September 2008:

TIFF Blog #4 – Me and Orson Welles

I’m going to admit right off the bat that this movie wasn’t one of my first choices when I looked at the film list for this year’s TIFF. It was more of a plan B movie, but I wasn’t able to get tickets for Synechdoche, New York, or Zach and Miri Make a Porno, or even Pontypool: a Canadian movie that you’ve probably never heard of that was also sold out, so when I had to pick a film to use my remaining vouchers on, I chose Me and Orson Welles. It was directed by Richard Linklater – a director whose films are at least serviceable and at best, Dazed and Confused – and it’s about the guy who made Citizen Kane. I figured it was a safe bet.

After seeing it, I can safely say that Me and Orson Welles is indeed a safe bet, and that’s its biggest problem: it’s too safe. By no means is it a bad movie: it’s technically and aesthetically pleasing and it has some very solid supporting characters, including a top-notch interpretation of Welles by Christian McKay that could probably land him a best supporting actor nomination if the film it was in wasn’t so… safe.

It was adapted from the book of the same name by Richard Kaplow, and I have the slightest feeling that the adaptation process went something like this: producer reads book, calls agent – agent calls other agent, who calls writers – writers gather in a room and pick the book apart piece by piece, voting on which parts stay, which parts go, and what they should add in. It’s adaptation by committee. Somewhere down the line, a director is called in, but not until some actors and actresses have already signed on. Every decision probably went through about five different levels of approval, four of which were lawyers.

The overall goal was probably to create a film that could appeal to everyone and make its money by generating some Oscar buzz, but with every idea toned down to a PG level and nothing truly unique or remarkable to carry it, Me and Orson Welles feels as empty as the suits behind its production. I know what it’s trying to do; it’s trying to convey the feeling of being swept up in the surreal magic of the flamoyant genius that was Orson Welles, as well as the difficulty of knowing and working with him personally. All of that is in the film, but the delivery falls so flat that you never really feel it yourself, as much as you may want to.

The film’s main character is an aspiring actor who just so happens to luck out and land a role in Welles’ stage production of Caesar. The role is played by Zac Efron, whom you may know from the latest piece of propaganda for pre-teens brought to us by Disney: High School Musical. Over the course of the film, it would make sense for Efron’s character to grow and develop as he discovers the vast differences between studying acting in a classroom and performing on stage with Welles, but we never get a sense of this from Efron, who seems content to ride the same slightly fascinated/bewildered look on his face for the entire time he’s on camera.

Linklater did a solid job putting the film together, but I couldn’t help but feel like he was phoning it in, perhaps because he couldn’t do any directing without also making a million phone calls. As a result, most of Me and Orson Welles is very basic in both style and structure, very cliched. There’s nothing there to really draw you into the setting of the film or distinguish it from other 30s period pieces. Again, I’m not sure if this was actually Linklater’s fault – as I doubt he was actually allowed to do much directing on his own – but his name is attached to the film, so he does bare some responsibility for the finished product.

All in all, Me and Orson Welles proves that safe is death when you’re making a film. Aside from a few strong supporting characters, it’s hard to find any life in the film. Yes, it is technically sound and there are no major problems with the story or dialogue, but that’s only enough to make a movie mediocre; it’s not enough to make a movie worth seeing. For some reason, Me and Orson Welles doesn’t strive to be anything more than mediocre, which is the worst possible thing a movie can be. At least bad movies tend to draw some attention and box office numbers (if they couldn’t, Disaster Movie would never have been made and Uwe Boll would be homeless), but mediocre movies simply fade into obscurity with no money or awards to show for it.

I would like to think that this movie can do something good for film. I would like to believe this will put an end to Efron’s bid for a serious movie career, but that’s wishful thinking. Hollywood has proven again and again that there’s nothing it loves more than a talentless actor with power eyebrows and perfect teeth.

Film Experience Blog, Nathaniel Rogers, 15 September 2008:

Me & Orson Welles – I really really hate HD. My viewing experience would’ve been enhanced ten-fold if Linklater had shot film. HD just looks like bad TV. This actually feels like a TV movie, and it would have felt less so if it was shot film. I still had fun. The first two acts are much stronger than the third. I got the feeling the writers didn’t really have an ending, so they just let it go on. Still, Christian McKay (as Welles) is a hoot, and Zac Efron doesn’t make you cringe, although he can never quite match the brilliance of that basketball song in the High School Musical 3 trailer (for those who haven’t seen the trailer, you have to see it for it’s comedic brilliance). B-

Other Reflections from the 7th Row, Alexandra Heeney, 18 September 2008:

TIFF2008: Me and Orson Welles

Richard Linklater’s new film, Me and Orson Welles, is mediocre by Linklater standards but a good, fun mainstream film by any other standards. That is to say, it’s closer to being on par with Linklater’s other mainstream films like School of Rock or A Scanner Darkly than to the brilliance of his masterpieces like Before Sunset, Tape, or Waking Life, but it’s still a fun time. It’s the late 1930s and sixteen-year-old Richard (Zac Efron), still daydreaming in high school, has a chance encounter with Orson Welles on the street. Displaying his drumming expertise, Welles (Christian McKay) casts him in his production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theatre. Richard is thrust into the life of an actor, skipping school, attending rehearsals, and falling hopelessly in love with the beautiful house manager (Claire Danes) who has bigger ambitions and will stop at nothing to achieve them. Everyone in the company marvels at the genius of the pompous, self-important Orson Welles, and complains about how they must tolerate his childish, disrespectful behaviour.

We see glimpses of disjointed scenes from Orson Welles’ modernized with Nazi costumes, and well-staged Julius Caesar. These glimpses are, however, not enough from which to really understand or judge the quality of Welles’s interpretation. And although I find the fact that the play’s reception was without much controversy, which seems unlikely at the time of Hitler’s rise to power and atrocities, and Welles’s overall interpretation is unexplained, I still enjoyed the blocking, delivery, and set design of these scenes.

Set to a soundtrack of 1930s classics, from Gershwin to Irving Berlin, with perfect period production design, Me and Orson Welles has a great feel and a visually dazzling look. Although it mostly takes place inside the Mercury theatre, the small space never gets dull: Linklater is a master at manipulating the camera to find new and exciting ways to show a confined space. Though theatres will likely fill up with pre-teen girls crushing on the cute, but untalented Zac Efron, the real stars of the film are Christian McKay, with a highly stylized and believable, although somewhat one-dimensional, performance as Orson Welles, and Claire Danes.

It’s Always Something, Julia, 16 September 2008:

TIFF ’08

Me and Orson Welles

This was a cute film, it wasn’t profound in anyway, I didn’t learn any of the great misteries of life, but it definitely had some spunk. The story is a high school kids finds himself working on a production of Julius Caesar directed and staring Orson Welles. This is the kid’s dream (note: Zac Efron plays the kid, so much of my reason to see this film was to be able to make fun of Efron, in my head, ha).

Overall the film is pretty meh. Props to the guy playing Joseph Cotton. Cotton was an amazing actor back in those days, and it was good to see him represented well today. Clare Danes, playing the love interest was really annoying, but then again, I’ve never been a fan of hers, something about her mannerisms are just so contrived. The guy playing Orson Welles was decent, but didn’t have the grandeur that the real Welles commanded (but hey, that’d be hella hard to duplicate).

Also this film was directed by Richard Linklater, which is the strongest reason why I chose to see this film. He does a fine job; I’d say this is one of his Hollywood films, a la Bad News Bears and Fast Food Nation.

Filmcatcher, dangelo, 11 September (no link anymore):

Me and Orson Welles (Richard Linklater, UK): 51

[Sure, Christian McKay does a remarkable Welles impression (though to be honest I was more bowled over by the dead ringer for Cotten they found), but he’s trapped in one of those largely useless exercises in imaginative nostalgia — and he’s playing second banana to freakin’ Zac Efron to boot. Cute enough, but it really has no urgent reason to exist, and in some ways feels even more impersonal than Linklater’s Bad News Bears remake. Small Favors Dept.: No rib-nudging references to War of the Worlds or Kane (save for a generic, unfunny “How will I ever top this?”), though I do seem to recall an Ambersons citation somewhere.]

Row Three, Mike Rot, 21 September 2008 (repost of original review on 12 August 2008):

Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles (Review)

During the Q&A of his film Tape, Richard Linklater remarked that it took a lot for a story to grab him and that when mining literary material for cinematic possibilities he was particularly selective, looking for that new voice to make the filmmaking exercise worth doing. It was 2001, and he had just finished Tape and Waking Life, two unique projects that held firm to this principle. Had you asked me then of whom did I consider to be the five greatest directors still working, his name would have certainly come up. But something has changed, in me perhaps, but I feel it also in his more recent work, this palpable shift in principle, with certain projects that he has chosen clearly suggesting a disinterest in the ‘new voice’ he so fondly spoke of before. Films like Bad News Bears, Fast Food Nation, even School of Rock, and now added to the list, Me and Orson Welles.

What I find so frustrating about such a film as Me and Orson Welles is not that it is a bad film but rather that it is so middling in its efforts, so willing to be conventional in every way and let a consistent state of déjà-vu infect the presiding of yet another backstage thespian story. Even more contemptible because it is Richard Linklater at the helm, someone fresh off of A Scanner Darkly, someone whose talents need not be wasted.

Visually and performance-wise there is a lot to enjoy about this recreation of a period in Orson Welles career when he helmed a lauded production of Julius Caesar at the Mercury theater in New York. Here we have a Welles prior to his many successes as a movie star and director, yet still admired for his radio and theater work, a colossus of talent around which everyone encircled, patiently waiting for him to begin. The main occupation of the Mercury theater is to wait for Orson, and as the production teeters on the edge of collapse, we watch an artist in his element take from the chaos that which makes greatness in art. We watch from a particular point of view, that of a budding thespian, Richard Samuels, who spends his time learning about the theory of the world in high school only to have it materialize at the Mercury. The film is intended to be a love letter to actors, and an affectionate look at a time and place when the business and the world around it felt bursting with possibilities, everything tinged in nostalgia (unfortunately never going for more than soft light admiration).

While full of some nice comedic bits at the expense of a sometimes cartoony impression of a brutish dictator in Welles, the ambition of recreating a sense of the world behind the play felt incomplete, relying too much on archetype characters doing archetype things and lacking any of richness of detail that something like Mike Leigh’s Topsy-Turvy was in abundance of. Everything felt conveniently laid out, and the love story was completely telegraphed from the very first scene, and in this respect of relying so heavily on conventions I feel disappointed with this latest effort.

But really I can sort of understand why it was done, and anybody who sees this film will within the first ten minutes come to the same realization: Christian McKay IS Orson Welles. Now I know we have all seen our share of imitations, Cate Blanchet as Katherine Hepburn, Jamie Fox as Ray Charles, but let me say definitively, and once again, Christian McKay IS Orson Welles. He does not just nail the voice, he without any prosthetic nose or such looks like a dead ringer of him! How do you find someone who looks like the man, sounds like the man, and on top of it all can genuinely act? Christian McKay is a miracle, an oddity, a freak show that one delights in with ever second he is onscreen. It seems fitting that for a story about the craft of acting that the one great achievement of the film is the meta-admiration of a real actor doing otherworldly things. There can me no doubt that no matter how inoffensively average this film is, Christian McKay will be nominated at next years Academy Awards and likely win.


eatmybrains, 21 September 2008:

Report from Toronto International Film Festival – Day 2

While Ant and Ian headed off to see Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme’s latest starring Anne Hathaway – apparently very good) I took a break and then walked down to the Ryerson (home of the MM screenings) for the world premiere of Me And Orson Welles, my first public screening of the festival. On my way down Yonge Street I spotted a familiar looking chap with mad scientist hair walking towards me – it was only after we’d passed that I realised that it was Geoffrey Rush, here in Toronto promoting the film $9.99!

One thing I didn’t take advantage of last year was the press access to the red carpet arrivals, so since I was already there for the film I thought I might as well make the most of it this time around. A small crowd had assembled outside, mainly to scream at Zac Efron (High School Musical) so it was fun hanging out taking a few snaps of the rising star along with co-stars Claire Danes, Christian McKay and the film’s director Richard Linklater as they arrived for the screening.

The film takes place over the course of one week in 1937 as Welles (McKay) prepares to launch his production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at the famous Mercury Theatre. Events are seen through the eyes of Richard (Efron), an aspiring actor who’s taken on by Welles after an impromptu audition and soon falls for his assistant Sonja (Danes), which naturally causes friction amongst the company. It’s another departure for Linklater after A Scanner Darkly and Fast Food Nation but the versatile director is up to the task and delivers another richly rewarding picture. There’s a fine supporting roster of British thesps (Eddie Marsan, Ben Chaplin and Leo Bill – The Living And The Dead) but it’s Christian McKay who takes the plaudits – having previously played Welles on stage, he’s the perfect embodiment of the legendary director and gives a truly outstanding performance here.

Carmel in Oz, Carmel, 22 September 2008:

Toronto part 1

Me and Orson Welles – UK, Richard Linklater

Set in the thirties, this film has a charismatic impersonation of Orson Welles at its centre, with a young boy joining Orson’s theatre group as they perfom Julius Caesar, learning about the famous man while he learns his lines and some of life’s lessons. I didn’t like the heavy-handed sentimentality of the two love stories around the lead boy, nor the kookie self-conscious nod to cool with the anachronistic converse trainers and zips on the boy, nor the usual self-aware intellectuality of Linklater’s dialogue. I could see what Linklater was trying to do here but was not impressed. It divided the group I was with, with two of us loving it and two of us hating it. I fell into the latter camp. 3/10

The Blurst of Times, Chris, 12 September 2008:

Chris does Tiff: Me and Orson Welles edition

Me and Orson Welles

Orson Welles is one of those rare film personalities that fascinates me outside of his body of work.

An accomplished thespian and radio artist before he ever turned to more celluloid based endeavours, his genius and larger than life personality were eclipsed only by his hubris and arrogance. His film career was cut tragically short because he refused to play the studio game, but not before he forever changed the way that movies were made in Hollywood. As a result actions, he spent the rest of his life hopping around the globe trying to secure financing on a variety of projects, never again truly getting the opportunity to truly exercise his creative abilities.

However, in the Richard Linklater production, Me and Orson Welles, the focus of the film is on Richard Samuels (Zac Efron), an aspiring actor who lucks into a supporting role in Welles’ modern dress stage version of Julius Caesar. The film covers approximately the two weeks before the opening of the play. Samuels is chafing at the bit as approaches the end of his high school education and so he goes out into the world to see what it has to offer him. Almost by accident he becomes a member of the famed Mercury Theatre where he experiences first hand the passion, creativity and near chaos that was any project Orson Welles’ put his mind too.

Welles, played to absolute perfection by little known actor Christian McKay, is almost reduced to being part of the background scenery, albeit a part of the scenery that’s not afraid to insert itself forcibly into the action of the film. His almost tangible personality reinforces the character and feel of the late 1930’s, where radio was the mainstream commercial juggernaut of the day, film little more than a snot-nosed upstart and where theatre was where all the really prestigious actors worked.

McKay’s Welles moves like a storm throughout this film, scattering actors, and their ambitions, left and right. People don’t act with Welles, they react to him. He is as far above his stage counterparts of the day as he would be above his film peers less than four years later. It’s unfortunate that in the film that bears his name in the marquee, it is not this man that we are supposed to be watching

Zac Efron, Clare Danes and Ben Chaplin all do credibly jobs with the time they are given on screen. But make no mistake, you’re hear to watch Christian McKay. The man manages to bring Welles’s epic personality to the screen, but dial it back just enough that he doesn’t overshadow his fellow performers. This film is nothing more than a brief slice of Welles’ frenzied career, but it is a filling meal nonetheless.

Steve Munro’s Web Site, Steve, Munro, 11 September 2008:

TIFF 2008 Reviews (6)

Me and Orson Welles

Occasionally, a director has the chance to build a film around an actor who already owns his role. Such was the case with Christian McKay who had been playing a one-man show as Orson Welles. So strong is his interpretation, one has to remember that it is still a sketch, an homage, not the real thing.

Me and Orson Welles is itself adapted from a novel. There’s a lot of crossover here.

Richard Samuels (Zack Efron) is a young would-be actor hoping to play on Broadway. He manages to talk his way into the Mercury Theatre, Welles at that point fledgling company. There’s a romantic interest, Sonja (Claire Danes) who actually keeps the company together while hoping Welles will smooth her way to greater things in the film world. Richard should know better than to upstage the great man.

Welles is preparing Julius Caesar and Richard will play Lucius. Rehearsals are chaotic. Richard is not a very good actor. Amazingly, opening night comes off brilliantly, a triumph for Orson Welles. Richard is not so lucky and his career in the theatre is a brief one.

Me and Orson Welles isn’t a big, complex story, but it has a lot of brilliant acting with solid work right into the supporting cast. The direction and editing are tight, and it’s great fun to watch both as an ensemble piece and to see Christian McKay’s take on Orson Welles. What could have been a weak film built around one overdone character actually works because Linklater has the good sense to keep Welles off the screen enough for us to savour his appearances.

, , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply