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4 reviews, 6 user ratings

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Me and Orson Welles
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by William Goss

"Mercury Rising"
3 stars

“We wait for Orson,” the theater manager (Eddie Marsan) tells the cast, crew, and – in effect – the audience.

Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles may be a change of pace for the indie wunderkind, but for anyone else, it’s a fairly familiar coming-of-age tale, as scrappy teen Richard Samuels (Zac Efron) spends a wondrous week in and around the Mercury Theatre as they put on Welles’ radical production of Shakespeare’s "Julius Caesar."

Efron flirts around with the likes of Zoe Kazan and Claire Danes, not worried about school and not worried about by family, and despite all of the charisma that he brought to 17 Again earlier this year and despite all of the costuming that Linklater sticks him in, he sticks out like a sore thumb in 1937 Manhattan. His antics are inoffensive enough, but his lead’s not much to root for when he lands a part in the play and “the opportunity to be showered with Orson’s spit.”

While it may not matter whether or not our protagonist keeps the part, let alone gets it, it puts him inside the Mercury, where things pick up as the traditions and superstitions of the stage unfold, demonstrating all of the cooperation and compromise that comes with putting on a production. And things take off once our Welles (Christian McKay) takes center stage. He’s a cigar-puffing, scenery-gnawing visionary, one cocky enough to have the vision and charming enough to have others bring it to life for him.

McKay doesn’t just look and sound the part. His performance is all ego and gruff, a menace to most and lover to a few. His pride only drops when an actor breaks down on him, at which point he’ll feed their ego so long as it gets them and thereby the show – HIS show – through to opening night. It doesn’t matter that Efron stands in his shadow, or that their equal fondness for Danes’ character will lead to inevitable conflict; Welles more than makes up for the plodding antics off the stage.

It’s hard to see much thematic resonance on Linklater’s part, save for a scene where Welles brings Samuels along for a radio play, and Efron marvels at the behind-the-scenes workings of radio as we’re led to for theater, at the forming of something out of nothing, the birth of a creative endeavor to share with an audience and leave them to cherish.

But there’s precious little of that there, and more of the title’s Me making his way around the big wigs and making the most of his experience. There’s nothing actively unpleasant about how 'Me and Orson Welles' plays out, but chances are that you, like everyone else, will spend most of the time waiting for Orson.

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originally posted: 12/24/09 13:46:51
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Traverse City Film Festival For more in the 2010 Traverse City Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/05/15 David Hollingsworth Amazing and charismatic! 5 stars
12/30/09 damalc great acting. perfectly hammy. 4 stars
12/19/09 kuumu523 It Woow!!!, 5 stars
12/08/09 mary it was fantastic 5 stars
9/18/08 denny very enjoyable period piece; a different linklater 4 stars
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  25-Nov-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 17-Aug-2010


  DVD: 17-Aug-2010

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