Me and Orson Welles
Me and Orson Welles
Following on from School of Rock, Before Sunset and A Scanner Darkly, Richard Linklater continues to range across American cinema with the freedom of a true maverick. Is it any surprise that he has arrived at the doorstep of Orson Welles?
It is November, 1937, and teenager Richard Samuels (Zac Efron) dreams of making it on Broadway. One day he runs into Welles (Christian McKay), years before Citizen Kane but already a famous New York dramatist. With his new Mercury Theatre troupe as his instrument, Welles plans to mount a production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that will shake the foundations of American stagecraft. But he needs a bit player. Young Richard impresses him with his bravado and his singing voice – he’s hired.
Like a moth to a flame, Richard seeks the approval of the quick-tempered director, but soon finds himself distracted by Welles’s girl Friday, Sonja. Crisply played by Claire Danes as a woman with equal parts candour and ambition, she is irresistible, and knowingly so.
As Welles whips the troupe into shape for the pending premiere, egos and passions simmer to a boil. Richard falls for Sonja, but Sonja has a soft spot for more powerful men. Welles erupts into roaring fury when things don’t go his way, but can turn on a dime to charm an investor or a pouting actor.
McKay was discovered for this role doing a one-man show as Welles, and his performance is pitch perfect in voice and gesture – nothing short of dazzling. Efron is stretching his talent in new directions. He shows truly impressive range here, as the heady environment of the theatre awakens his character’s confidence and brings him to an inevitable clash with Welles.
Based on the novel by Robert Kaplow, Me and Orson Welles offers all the thrills of watching genius through the eyes of an innocent. The man who rose from Julius Caesar to War of the Worlds to Citizen Kane must have been hell to live with, which is the delicious pleasure of Me and Orson Welles.