Complete A-Z list

Me and Orson Welles


Stars: Zak Efron, Claire Danes, Christian McKay, Zoe Kazan, Eddie Marsan, Ben Chaplin, James Tupper, Kelly Reilly, Imogen Poots

Director: Richard Linklater

Resembling one of the better Woody Allen films, this is an affectionate and modestly entertaining look at a brief time in 1937, a period in which it's impeccably set. The focus of attention is the Mercury Theatre, run (or should one say lorded over?) by the 22-year-old wunderkind Orson Welles, played by British actor McKay, who looks nothing like 22, but otherwise is Welles down to the last whispered consonant.

The main protagonist, however, is Richard (High School Musical's Efron, who's beginning to look like the young Tyrone Power, and is definitely a matinee idol in the making). Although still in his final high school year, Richard has acting aspirations, and, joining a group of actors outside the Mercury, finds himself, by an extraordinary stroke of luck, and thanks to the flamboyant Welles, with a small role in the master's upcoming production of Julius Caesar, which Welles believes will make or break him.

Actors, settings and a feeling of optimism that something great is brewing are all lovingly captured. These are people who really believe that they may be seizing their day. And Claire Danes gives one of her most vivacious performances as the company secretary who has a fling with Richard, but must run to Orson's call both at work and in bed.

Despite all these good things, the film doesn't quite work as a dramatic entity. Richard's final destiny is a bit of a letdown, and theatre rows and crises tend to be a bit similar. There's some good stuff here, though, and the film will fascinate and thrill those with an interest in Welles and the period. The extracts from his production of Caesar are brilliantly re-staged and offer some idea of their impact at the time.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: CinemaNX. Colour by deluxe.
114 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 02 Dec 2009