If you’ve heard anything about "Me and Orson Welles," it’s probably that actor Christian Mckay is sensational as Orson Welles. And while Mckay lives up to the hype and his performance is worth the price of a ticket alone, you may be surprised to hear that Zac Efron isn’t half bad as the "Me."
Efron equates himself nicely in Richard Linklater’s charming period piece and takes his first confident steps away from "High School Musical" (He smokes! He drinks! He seduces an older woman!). Efron has a nice aw-shucks kind of charm, which contrasts well with the brooding and deathly-serious take on tween-idoldom that Robert Pattinson is currently employing in the "Twilight" series.
Starring:Zac Efron, Christian Mckay, Claire Danes
Efron plays Richard Samuels, a confident, cocky high school student in 1930’s New York who cons his way into a pre-"Citizen Kane" Orson Welles production of the now famous version of “Julius Caesar" at the Mercury Theater. At the rehearsal leading up to the big opening night that will either break or make Welles, Richard falls for Sonja (Claire Danes), who helps run The Mercury, and learns a little bit about life’s little realities in the process (mainly, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is).
While Efron anchors the film, Christian Mckay steals the show. Mckay, in a turn that is part performance and part impersonation, completely captures Welles’ precocious brilliance (he was only 22 when he directed "Julius Caesar") and overwhelming ego that threatened to end his career before it truly started.
The script wisely does not try to explain or forgive Welles’ bad behavior. It becomes painfully clear that there is rarely a moment when Welles isn’t playing whatever part that will assure that the show will go on and yet everyone keeps falling for it. The guy is just too damn charming. From the little moments of encouragement, to the brilliant bits of off-the-cuff direction that he seems to casually pull out of thin air, Mckay completely captures the manic brilliance of Welles while never forgetting to acknowledge that the guy was kind of a jerk as well.
In the end "Me and Orson Welles" does not make excuses for Welles’ bad behavior. If anything, the film suggests that how he treats Richard is nothing new. You get the feeling Welles has burned a lot of bridges in the name of making great art.
"Me and Orson Welles" is full of characters that constantly talk about how they would give almost anything to create art that will stand the test of time. Welles is simply more mercenary and cold-blooded about it. It is the quality that probably made him brilliant, and very lonely.
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