Me And Orson Welles - DVD Review

'more than the Efron vehicle its cover would suggest... entirely entertaining and unexpectedly substantial fare'

There are two things that are noticeable right from the offing in Me And Orson Welles; Zac Efron's hair and the fact that the film doesn't have a start. Of course, the film does have a 'start' just not necessarily one you would typically associate with a classically structured dramatic film: one quick and abrupt chance encounter between Orson Welles (Christian McKay) and Richard Samuels (Efron) and we're right into the meat of the plot, leaving the viewer little time to ponder Efron's bizarrely over-moused and manically out-of-period barnet.

Which, on reflection, is probably a good thing, as it leaves thankfully few moments to find distraction from all of the talent on show here. Starting with Richard Linklater, a director you forget about at your peril, and working down through Efron and McKay to Claire Danes, Ben Chaplin and Eddie Marsan, this is a film filled with 'proper' actors, most of whom spend the entire run time firing off killer scenes with magnificent 1930s bravado.

Chief amongst the bit parts is Chaplin, the Queen-like star of Welles' production of Julius Caesar, playing Mark Antony. Never quiet or understated, Chaplin conquers and owns the role of insecure but superlative 'star' and despite a brief screen time, sacrificed in favour of the three leads, his quality shines through.

Rightly though, our focus here is on Danes (who is brilliant), Efron (who is somewhere just above passable) and McKay (who is superb). Their triangular relationship is the real dramatic crux of Me And Orson Welles, and each one is required to pull their weight and adapt dramatically on several occasions. Paradoxically, McKay shows the most ability but the least range: his Welles is demanded to own every scene, capturing his audience (us or those in his theatre) in a fixed gaze and domineering presence. He pulls it off. More than that in fact, he's basically faultless and whilst Danes and Efron have a thankless task opposite him (as indeed, apparently, did anyone opposite the real Welles) they both generally succeed.

The main gripe here is a really out of place prologue/epilogue between Richard and an otherwise absent character called Gretta (Zoe Kazan), which feels mechanically inserted to facilitate a tween-happy ending, otherwise having no place here dramatically. Elsewhere though, moments of brilliance pervade with the real highlight being the selected outtakes of the show's opening night, expertly shot and framed by Linklater and perfectly performed by actors who by now are playing two roles. Much more than the Efron vehicle its cover would suggest, this is entirely entertaining and unexpectedly substantial fare.

Look further...

'[Linklater] commands his material just as much as his actors command their characters, and although it may be too tidy at times, the film is a gem' - The King Bulletin, 3 and 1/2 out of 4


  1. I'm very weary of watching this, hoping to calm my absolute annoyance for anytime Zac Efron is on screen. This comes as a painful thing, since anything involving Orson Welles immediately grasps at the very fabric of my curiosity.

  2. I do really want to watch this one ... but I feel like I should know more than 'Citizen Kane' and 'The Third Man' to really 'understand' Welles...

    Zac Efron doesn't really bother me.


  3. Univarn - I would say that you are largely on safe ground. Efron is inoffensive and there is enough McKay, Danes, Chaplin and others to make him fade into the background. Like I say - despite the marketing, this isn't an Efron vehicle. If you're interested in Welles then I really can't see you not liking this as a whole.

    Simon - I don't think you need to feel like that. It's really entertaining whether you know anything about him or not. As a character, Welles is fantastic but really, if you didn't know who he was meant to be, McKay could be playing someone fictional and the film would still be thoroughly engaging.

    Simon - I completely agree on that front and I like that facet of it as well. Having said that, I'm not convinced he's a good actor and I'm sure there are better available at his age. Equally though, I suspect he was the main reason that they got funding for this and if that's what it takes to make really decent pics like this then I have little problem with seeing him here.

  4. This is a very good film. I actually think Efron proves here that he can act. It's not a performance that will stir an incredible amount of discussion - like McKay's - but it is a competent, engaging performance that really has no noticeable flaws. I found his interaction with both McKay and Danes to be delightful. This is one I could easily watch again.

  5. I agree with you on the fact that it's a good film Danny and I too could easily watch it again. I actually agree with you on many more points too (I read your review) but I'm not convinced with Efron. As I say, I think there's enough great stuff going on to largely ignore him and he's by no means bad but I just found him a bit flat and lifeless and Danes, McKay, Chaplain and others were completely out of his league. Definitely his most promising role though and as Simon said, good on him for taking it on.

  6. This coming-of-age fictional tale is a breezy delight for fans of theater and classic cinema, especially those who appreciate a peek behind the scenes at the interesting folks who create the magic.

  7. Completely agree - the chance to get an insight into what goes on in a theatre production, and then be rewarded by seeing parts of the show, is one of the film's other main joys.

  8. Love the review, especially comments about "brilliant vs. passable vs. superb" acting. I'd say Efron is the weak link here, but the film had me smiling from start to finish. I think it would touch any one who has been involved with or loves theater. I disagree that the beginning and end are unecessary. They show what it was to be a young artist in NYC at the time, the excitement, hope, and despair. The girlfriend is a different type of talent, a writer, who has the same passion as the "hero." By the way, are people always so polite here? The tactful comments are refreshing.

  9. Thanks, Elleoneiram! I agree that the film is just a really great effort and I too found myself delighted on a regular basis. I think if you can relate to the start and end then I'm sure you'll get something out of seeing those little bits but I personally didn't think they contributed much and certainly, Gretta doesn't influence the plot. And yes, here and on many other sites you'll find that we're rather a polite bunch! Thanks for stopping by.