My eyelids were drooping, and my chin was resting on my chest, when suddenly someone barked, “You talentless little shit!”
I jerked fully awake, and swiveled round to see if anyone else was in the room. No, I was quite alone. The shout had come from the TV screen, where actor Christian McKay was chastising his young co-star, Zac Efron, on a city sidewalk. “I hope you enjoyed your Broadway career, junior, because it’s over,” McKay admonished Efron. I blinked. Was this some out-take from a “behind the scenes” confrontation during the film’s production? Could it be that McKay shared my disdain for Efron’s performance in the movie, and somehow the DVD people had allowed this candid moment into its “extras”?
Wrong again. The film, Me and Orson Welles, was still in progress. I was seeing Orson Welles, McKay’s character in the movie, berating an aspiring actor played by Efron. It was clearly an example of art imitating life.
It’s probably not fair to peg any one performance for the success or failure of a film, but in this case it’s tempting. Me and Orson Welles dramatizes the days leading up to Welles’s triumphant Broadway staging of Julius Caesar in 1937. But the movie makes the fatal error of focusing on the bland and humorless Efron, rather than McKay, who absolutely nails the bombastic genius Welles. Had the film been more like a superior movie with a similar plot – My Favorite Year, starring Peter O’Toole – it could have worked.
“Jesus that’s all we need, a dozen critics with wet asses,” Welles harrumphs at another point in the film. But the trouble with this movie is not critics with wet posteriors; it’s a young star who is still wet behind the ears. Grade: C+
Director: Richard Linklater Cast: Zac Efron, Claire Danes, Christian McKay, Ben Chaplin, Zoe Kazan, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly, James Tupper, Leo Bill, Imogen Poots Release: 2009
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