'Me and Orson Welles': movie review
'Me and Orson Welles' is a heartfelt movie about a theater-struck high school teenager unceremoniously ushered into the mercurial world of Orson Welles.
Richard Linklater's "Me and Orson Welles" is one of the sweetest and most heartfelt movies ever made about a life in the theater. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has closely followed Linklater's career, which encompasses everything from "School of Rock" to "Waking Life" to the great young-love duet, "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset." He has both a populist's touch and a humanist's eye. It's a great and rare combination, and it serves him particularly well in this movie about a theater-struck high school teenager unceremoniously ushered into the fabulous world of that sacred monster, Orson Welles.Skip to next paragraph
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Quite by chance, Richard Samuels (Zac Efron) is cast in the bit role of Lucius in Welles's daring adaptation of "Julius Caesar," which is in its final week of rehearsal. (The actors are uniformed as Italian Fascists.) He enters into a world within a world where emotions run as high offstage as on and everyone is in fearful awe of the 22-year-old boy genius (Christian McKay).
Linklater and his screenwriters, Holly Gent Palmo and Vince Palmo, adapting the novel by Robert Kaplow, showcase the wraparound tumult of putting on a production, and they do it as if this sort of thing had never been filmed before. When Linklater made his "Sunrise/Sunset" films, the first stirrings of love seemed to be taking place right before our eyes. Similarly incandescent, "Me and Orson Welles" showcases an ardor for theater – for life lived at its highest pitch.
For Richard, the theater is also his entrance into a more earthly infatuation. Welles's all-purpose assistant Sonja (Claire Danes) is lusted after by most of the troupe's actors, who also include Norman Lloyd (Leo Bill) and Joseph Cotten (James Tupper). Bemused by his innocence, she leads Richard on. Gaga from her attentions, he fancies the infatuation runs both ways. What he doesn't recognize is Sonja's all-purpose drive to get ahead. When he discovers her relationship with Welles is more than all-business, she explains pragmatically, "I have to take care of myself," and the words hit him like slaps.