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Release Date
November 25, 2009
Director
Richard Linklater
Screenplay
Holly Gent Palmo
Vincent Palmo, Jr.
Based On The Novel By
Robert Kaplow
Distributed By
Freestyle Releasing & Warner Bros. Pictures
Budget
$25 million
Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rated PG-13 for sexual references and smoking
114 minutes

Me And Orson Welles

One would assume that a film portraying one of the most influential directors in the history of the cinema would unquestionably be an epic masterpiece. Unfortunately, those expectations fall extremely short. In fact, Me & Orson Welles was little more than a flop.

The point at which Me & Orson Welles goes wrong is quite unclear. Perhaps it is the inclusion of Zac Efron, famed for his pop-idol singing in High School Musical, that I failed to rise above Or perhaps it was the lack of relationships I felt for the characters, stemming from poor storytelling. Ultimately, the film felt repetitive and, walking blindly into the film, I had high hopes and expectations (perhaps extreme or ill-advised) that simply were not met (and perhaps never could be),

Orson Welles was a very influential man. Known for his temper and theatrics outside the theater, the notion cannot be denied that Welles was a genius. Citizen Kane is known the world over and is shown in every history of film class worldwide as the innovator for Hollywood cinema. Is it too much to ask, then, for a prominent film to depict him? Since his death in 1985, there has been a void of films devoted to representing his true to life character and finally a film stood up to so… and fell short.

My poor review appears to be in the minority as critic Roger Ebert expresses his admiration for the film full-heartedly. However, my displeasure does not stem from Christian McKay’s impersonation of Orson Welles, which is the source of much of Ebert‘s praise. McKay’s performance warranted most of my pleasure from the film and delivered the aura of what I am sure Mr. Welles presented in his life. I do not disagree that Welles was represented well and that his portions of the film were the most enjoyable. Welles was known as a character and McKay presents that effectively, with the physical, the audible, and the emotional. Yet somehow, the film teeters off with the inclusion of its counterparts.

Zac Efron plays Richard Samuels, a 17 year old boy skipping school in the late 1930’s to partake in his acting debut in the play Julius Caesar, being directed by the famous Orson Welles, whom Richard becomes somewhat close to (as close as anyone can get to Welles, who appears elusive and unattached). Richard takes a liking to one of Welles’ production assistants, Sonja Jones (played by Claire Danes). When Welles discovers this, he reverts his antics to stealing Sonja from Richard, and ultimately ending Richard’s acting career before it can truly begin.

Efron’s appearance was unwarranted and unexciting. A better actor choice would have been Shia LaBeouf or Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which are both actors with more acting prowess than Mr. Efron. Do not get me wrong, I had high hope for Efron’s involvement despite my dislike for High School Musical. With this film and Charlie St. Cloud in his renewed debut, I wanted to enjoy his performance, but I could not indulge and therefore disliked everything about his inclusion in this film.

Claire Danes faired even less than Zac Efron. Once again, I lost all involvement in the film with Danes’ presence. Though I have never held contempt for Danes prior to this viewing, the result after the Me & Orson Welles performance makes me pine for the days of Romeo & Juliet where she could match the acting fortitude of a man like Leonardo DiCaprio. With the mention of DiCaprio, I feel as though the producers thought putting Danes and Efron together would be reminiscent of the old Shakespearian coupling, but in the end, it failed miserably.

The outcome of Me & Orson Welles would have faired better with a better cast and gripping storytelling to match the superior performance of Christian McKay. The sad conclusion is that the creators had one colossal shot at producing a quality film about the life of Orson Welles and in the end, left much to be desired. But perhaps this was the point, to have a film where, much like the real Orson Welles felt as though he was always the star of the show, Christian McKay must be the sole shining light in the film. If that were the case, then at least Me & Orson Welles succeed at something. On all other fronts, however, the film felt botched.

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