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Sunday, 12 September 2010

Me and Orson Welles

You wouldn’t say that director Richard Linklater’s career has gone off the boil over the last few years, but the low-key run this film – starring Zac Efron, no less – is getting in this country hints at a step down from the days when he was mixing up comedies like School of Rock with lauded arthouse romances like Before Sunset. It’s an impression that Me and Orson Welles never quite manages to dispel: it’s fun, it’s pleasant, it’s engaging, it boasts one powerhouse performance, but it never quite manages to lodge in the memory the way many of his earlier films did.

The year is 1937 and actor Richard Samuels (Efron) scores a bit part in Orson Welles stage production of Julius Caesar. The usual backstage antics ensue thanks to various nutty actors, and before long love blooms between Samuels and Welles’ assistant Sonja Jones (Claire Danes). Problem there is, Welles (Christian McKay) doesn’t like anything going on that he’s not in complete control of. The pace is fast, the tone is light, the whole thing feels well-researched (in part it’s a salute to the hard work that goes into putting on a big performance) and McKay gives an amazing performance as Welles. It just never really adds up to a great deal, and unless you’re a): an Efron fan (he doesn’t exactly move out of his comfort zone, but he’s got charm to spare), b): a theatre buff, or c): interested in Orson Welles, it’s hard to see why you couldn’t wait for DVD here.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #480)

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