'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.
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Efron has the sleek, retro look here of a 1930s matinee idol, a young Tyrone Power perhaps. He's charming. The big splash in the cast, though, comes from McKay's Welles. With the exception of Philip Seymour Hoffman's Truman Capote in "Capote," I have never seen a famous-person performance this accomplished. It's not just that McKay, a British actor who has performed as Welles on stage, looks and sounds uncannily like the real deal. He gives us Welles as a fully formed creation – an enfant terrible with the wiles and mores of an aging roué. This genius is a credit-hogging behemoth whose instinct for the right theatrical effect is as unerring in real life as on the stage (for Welles, the distinction may be moot). Linklater makes you feel exactly as Welles's Mercury Theater players did: They may cower before him and curse him behind his back, but they know that this is the experience of a lifetime. They feel bludgeoned and anointed at the same time.Skip to next paragraph
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Welles in this film is so larger than life that, for a while, I was afraid he might become a roaring caricature. But Linklater gives Welles a beautiful, brief sequence where, riding with Richard en route to a radio show taping, he pulls out a marked copy of Booth Tarkington's novel "The Magnificent Ambersons" and drops his guard for a moment. The book, he ventures, "is about how everything gets taken away from you," and the moment is extraordinarily moving not only because we know that Welles years later will direct the film of "The Magnificent Ambersons" (which the studio took away from him and recut). It's moving, and also creepy, because this prodigious young man resounds with a sense of loss he has yet to fully experience in his own life. We think, too, of the losses in his movie career as it unfolded, the botched and unfinished projects. We think of Welles's legendary self-destructiveness that, here, in nascent form, is already gathering force.
But all thoughts of impending gloom are momentarily stayed on opening night, when Welles's production of "Julius Caesar" gets a standing ovation. He mutters to himself, "How the hell do I top this?" The glint in his eye tells us he's not worried in the slightest. Richard, meanwhile, cast off by Welles, remains enthralled. This teenager has just experienced something much bigger than himself. He speaks in the end about how all of life seems to be ahead of him, and you can't help but share in his rapture. Grade: A (Rated PG-13 for sexual references and smoking.)