Me and Orson Welles
Yes, applaud me! I’m like a young John Lithgow!

Theatrical Release Date: 12/11/2009
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Zac Efron, Christian McKay, Claire Danes, Ben Chaplin, Zoe Kazan, Eddie Marsan, James Tupper

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” … these words many a student well recognize from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. In “Me and Orson Welles”, the legendary actor, writer and director puts on a Broadway production of the play and as fate and script would have it, the ‘Me’ is played by Zac Efron.

Now don’t stop reading and instantly dismiss this as another fluff film the teen idol is just going through the motions with. I haven’t had the chance to say this often (or ever expected to really) but Zac Efron does a nice job of acting in this film. As the boy dreaming of fame but understanding little in the ways of the world, his character must learn quickly the difference between his dreams and reality. Up to this point, Efron’s been in the typical Disney fare and the like that requires little more than he comb his hair and let the tweens swoon. Perhaps with this role, he will start to take on more challenging and adult roles but only time will tell on that one.

And while Efron is the main focus of the film, it is Christian McKay’s excellent performance as the legendary Orson Welles that steals the show. A giant in his own time and mind, Welles is the kind of brash personality that could either intimidate or inspire other actors to portray him and McKay took the bull by the horns here. While the big, explosive moments are the showiest, McKay’s best moments occur when the audience is allowed to realize not only the human side of him but the sly and sneaky side; as he sprays the same compliments around to different people all in order to get his own way in the end.

The supporting cast do a decent job as well, with Claire Danes and Zoe Kazan providing the two extremes for Efron to cozy up to. It’s supremely formulaic, seeing his character arc hit all the predictable notes, but under director Richard Linklater’s direction things turn out well for the most part. The production design is decent and the costume and music choices all help to set the film in the late 1930s.

If you’re looking for a tale of a boy becoming a man, with a little bit of a peek into a radio, stage and screen icon to boot, “Me and Orson Welles” is a good choice receiving a 3.5 out of 5. McKay’s performance may garner him some awards nominations and in a sea of films this month failing to meet expectations or provide much of a spark, this is one of the few to leave me with a satisfied feeling upon exiting the theater.