How entertaining? ★★★★☆
Thought provoking? ★☆☆☆☆
21 November 2009
This article is a review of ME AND ORSON WELLES.
"By the year of 1592, Shakespeare was already an actor, and a playwright. Records of how his stage career began have not survived. We do know that in 1594 he joined a theater troupe. Called... anyone remember? Not everyone at once now. The Lord Chamberlain's Men," Dr. Mewling (Garrick Hagon)
Genius is an epithet bandied about way too much. Geniuses are rare, wouldn’t you agree? In cinema it’s hard to tell as it is such a collaborative art form. Many regard the director of CITIZEN KANE and TOUCH OF EVIL as one, and here is a lesser-known story about the man. Before his two legends - the WAR OF THE WORLDS radio broadcast, taken as real by listeners, and KANE - he put on his take in 1937 of JULIUS CAESAR. Rather than go for an over-view, the film has chosen to look at the man through historical fiction and the eyes of a school kid, Richard (Zac Efron), who has the stroke of luck to end up in the production.
After the seriousness of his last two adaptations (FAST FOOD NATION, A SCANNER DARKLY), director Richard Linklater has gone for a bitter-sweet coming-of-age tale that he normally excels in (DAZED & CONFUSED, BEFORE SUNRISE). While never scaling the heights of his best film, BEFORE SUNSET, this is an intriguing gaze at working with arrogant talent, and innocence butting into disappointing reality; while also zipping along, anchored by charismatic, believable turns.
Efron’s Richard is surrounded by life lessons that don’t feel forced. Claire Danes’ Sonja is an educator in theatre machinations and matters of the heart. A wise move to cast an unknown as Welles (Christian McKay), who slips into the part without you realising. Also, like DIE HARD and GROSSE POINTE BLANK, the minor supporting parts are given three-dimensions by good writing and acting.
Being the 1930s the banter is there to echo the greats of the era – THE PHILADELPHIA STORY and HIS GIRL FRIDAY; but is not as astoundingly rat-a-tat unfortunately as those masterpieces. But so what if this is unlikely to be a modern classic, it still has more charm and wit than most.