Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Based on Robert Kaplow's novel of the same name, “Me and Orson Welles” is a coming of age story unfolding during the course of one week in 1937. It stars Zac Efron, the Disney tween idol who shows his acting chops as a teen on the cusp of manhood who grows up fast.
A daydreamer in school, the aspiring actor lucks into a role as Lucius in Orson Welles’ (played by newcomer Christian McKay) ambitious theatrical debut of “Julius Caesar.” He does an admirable job with the role of Richard, a young man with one foot in high school and the other in the gritty world.
Efron proves he’s more than a pretty face who can sing and dance. He holds his own in scenes with McKay, no small feat.
McKay delivers a delicious performance as the larger-than-life Welles. He’s charming yet devilish, a dandy and a rogue who is big on intellect yet small of heart. He’s electrifying on screen, imbuing his scenes with memorable lines and often mischievous twinkling eyes. He’s maddening yet adorable as the young visionary behind his legendary Mercury Theatre Company.
Themes of lost innocence, the price of success and the grayness of truth are explored. Sexual situations make some of the messages inappropriate for Efron’s legions of young fans. But in our fame obsessed culture, it’s refreshing when a script examines aspirations and morals from a high school student’s perspective.
The film deftly captures the frustrations and delights of the theatre. The clashing personalities off the stage, the endless rehearsals, the second-rate treatment for non-stars.
At the center of it all is a mesmerizing McKay in this semi-historical period piece shaped by a smart script and direction.
But the narrative belongs to Richard, who will fall for the worldly Sonja (Clair Danes) and clash with the egotistical Welles. Both teach him some life lessons no classroom or script can.