Me and Orson Welles (2008) – Film Review
Me and Orson Welles
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Zac Effron, Christian McKay, Claire Danes
by Matt Callard
Me and Orson Welles is a fairly agreeable imagining of Orson Welles’s legendary staging of Julius Caesar, but Zac Effron almost ruins it with a vacant performance. In fact, the film is saved by an extraordinary performance from young Christian McKay as the iconic director.
McKay brilliantly capturing every Welles-ian characteristic and nuance. The sonorous voice, the mocking self-modesty, the eyebrow arch and sense of constant amusement. He does not ever resort to caricature – the actor takes you beyond plain impersonation and slowly reveals the subtle defence mechanisms under the man’s outward pomp and bluster. Until, quite brilliantly, he reveals the emotional chink in his armour. It’s a fabulous portrait.
It’s a mystery, then, why director Richard Linklater chooses to use the ‘passive observer’ method to link the film together. Zac Effron’s Richard Samuels is a naïve outsider. He’s thrust into the Welles wonder-world so that the characters can explain this world to him and, in effect, to the audience. It’s a sloppy device and somewhat lazy. Cynics might wonder if the role is specially created for the bankable Effron.
Whatever, he’s not up to the job. He fails to flesh-out a bland role that badly needs an actor with considerable more screen presence.
The period detail is beautiful, although we are now quite casual about such movie indulgences, as much as we are accustomed to vast CGI-otherworlds. A quippy, occasionally corny script completes a mostly charming movie, albeit with limited appeal.