Me and Orson Welles is a period-drama film directed by Richard Linklater and starring Zac Efron, Christian McKay and Claire Danes. Based on Robert Kaplow's novel of the same name, the story, set in 1937 New York, tells of a teenager hired to star in Orson Welles' production of Julius Caesar, where he becomes attracted to a career-driven production assistant.
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At the Movies
Me and Orson Welles (PG) * * * *
Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Christian McKay, Claire Danes, Zac Efron
Studio: E1 Films
Audience Suitability: PG
Rating: * * * *
Release Date: Dec. 11, 2009
Running Time: 114 Minutes
By ROBERT WALDMAN
Casting directors are pivotal parts to moviemaking. Choose the right actor and it can go a long, long way to making a movie or play or television production a success. Behind the scenes credit is earned by the choice of Christian McKay who plays the lead in Me and Orson Welles, a very impressive, sleek looking tale from E1 Films now captivating audiences at Tinseltown (on Pender, free parking).
Legends are hard to portray. Off we go to the fun year of 1937 where we see dare I say a “fledgling” director try to helm a play on Broadway. Critics can tear a play apart as we all know. New kid on the block Orson Welles proves anything but a pushover in a rather bold effort to bring Shakespeare to the stage – and by extension to the masses.
Director Richard Linklater (A Scanner Darkly) is a brilliant filmmaker and who better than him to present a new version of a bonafide superstar of the arts. Long before today’s overrated superstars was the visionary Orson Welles. For almost two hours we get to see a brilliant re-enactment of Welles in all his glory as the ambitious one tries to mount a new version of Caesar.
What’s so entertaining about this movie is watching and listening to the determination of a director who uses every trick in the book, and then some, to get his way. Arrogant in the extreme you get to see what makes Orson tick and heaven help anyone who dares question “the boss.”
Big time drama unfolds when an upstart named Richard Samuels joins the show. Young at only 17 somehow Samuels manages to wiggle his way onto the stage and not before long a tug of war develops between the rookie and the seasoned vet who has a winning way of wooing people over to his side – or dispatching them with one fell swoop.
Christian McKay Dead Ringer for one of a kind visionary Genius
Huge drama envelops the production as we are taken behind the scenes to see how Welles operates with his drive to perfection. Cast as the creative genius is Christian McKay who takes your breath away as Welles. Facial expressions tell it all along with very sharp defined dialogue as you feel the power and force that this man wields. Minor diversions here come by way of Sonja Jones, a secretary on a mission. Bubbly Claire Danes (The Mod Squad) seems to be in her element as a girl Friday willing to give her all for the success of the show.
Where a bit of miscasting may have occurred relates to Zac Efron (High School Musical) who plays the rookie actor. Now Efron is a fine actor, to be sure, only here his appearance seems like a lure to his legions of teenage girl fans and takes away from the real strong, forceful acting of the lead players who obviously have a lot more to work with.
Classy Tunes add to appeal of Great atmospheric Julius Caesar production
Watching Shakespeare can be a tricky affair. Ben Chaplin (The Water Horse) brings a lot to the plate as a nervous performer and the other supporting cast is all fine tuned. Perfect musical accompaniments with great tunes a la Gershwin and Cole Porter add to the impressive atmosphere of the movie. You don’t need to like Broadway theatre to enjoy the staging of a great master’s determined effort to pull off a success.
Bottom line on Me and Orson Welles is that it’s so good you’ll think you’re watching the real thing and listening (really sitting in) to a giant of the entertainment world and its history.
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