Me and Orson Welles Review
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Director Richard Linklater isn’t exactly a predictable director. Throughout his career, he’s directed everything from comedies like Dazed and Confused and School of Rock to romances like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. His latest, Me and Orson Welles, on the other hand, is a light and charming drama—a story of love, theater, and the tyrannical genius that was Orson Welles.

For high school student Richard Samuels (Zac Efron), there’s so much more to life than teachers and homework. He dreams of becoming an actor—of taking the stage on Broadway. So as soon as school lets out, he races to the city, to wander around the shops and theaters and soak in the atmosphere.

One afternoon, Richard finds himself at the Mercury Theater, where Orson Welles (Christian McKay) is preparing his production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. During a brief encounter with Welles himself, Richard manages to charm his way into a small role—one that requires him to sing and play a ukulele while acting opposite the famed director. Fortunately, the young actor gets plenty of help and encouragement from Sonja Jones (Claire Danes), the hard-working (and pretty) production assistant, who somehow manages to keep everything afloat.

As the overconfident director races from interview to radio production to dinner with his leading lady (and, occasionally, home to his pregnant wife) in his very own ambulance, the production is in shambles. No one’s prepared for opening night—and if they fail, the theater will, too. So as the big night gets closer, tensions at the theater rise.

Linklater’s work has run the cinematic gamut—from dramatic to edgy to just plain silly. But Me and Orson Welles is just plain delightful—a light and uncomplicated period drama with a captivating cast and a larger-than-life star.

The film’s initial buzz revolved around High School Musical pretty-boy Efron—and understandably so. The young star actually turns in a rather impressive performance as the aspiring young actor. Of course, the role admittedly isn’t that much of a stretch (though, to be fair, there’s no basketball choreography involved).

Still, the film’s real star is Christian McKay, who’s absolutely electric as Welles. Not just any actor could have done the role justice. His Welles is such a magnetic—and multi-faceted—character. He’s charming and impulsive, paranoid and arrogant, playful and hot-headed. He’s an ever-changing creative mastermind. So, really, McKay had to master several roles—and several personalities—to play the part. Clearly, though, McKay is not just any actor. He doesn’t just act like Welles; he seems to channel Welles. Technically, he’s just a supporting character in young Richard’s story—but when he’s on-screen, nothing (and no one) else matters.

Of course, there’s so much more to Me and Orson Welles than its noteworthy stars—from the smart period costumes to the energy of the Mercury Theater, a place of rumor, scandal, and eager anticipation. It’s a stylish and captivating film—an entertaining fictional slice-of-life drama that’s worth watching for McKay’s performance alone.

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