Published Dec 10, 2009I first saw Citizen Kane when I was ten. Back then, it was hard for me to reconcile the image of the passionate, young Orson Welles as he acted and directed his way through arguably the greatest American film with the older, overweight Welles I was more familiar with (I think I'd seen him in The Muppet Movie).
Search "Orson Welles" on YouTube and the first video that pops up is an outtake of Orson drunkenly ruining a Champagne commercial. It's hard to visualize the point in his career when he was the toast of the theatrical community and was considered a full-fledged genius. Not surprisingly, unpredictable director Richard Linklater took an interest in the figure of Welles. Although Me and Orson Welles isn't a great film, it does authentically satisfy certain curiosities.
In 1937, teenager Richard Samuels (Zac Efron from High School Musical) lands a job at the Mercury Theatre in New York, appearing briefly in Orson Welles's soon-to-be groundbreaking production of Julius Caesar. Richard quickly becomes infatuated with Sonja (Clare Danes), an ambitious girl who works for Welles (Christian McKay). As the play nears its debut, Richard is spurned by Sonja and risks offending Welles's volatile personality.
As a story about a young man nearing adulthood it story falls flat. Efron plays the part capably but without any real charm, which would help detract from the superficiality of the character. Richard works only as a device to pull the audience into the world of Orson Welles, wonderfully recreated by McKay. At times, he truly channels Welles, offering the audience both his charm and egomania.
The film also largely serves as a faithful recreation of Welles's Caesar, as produced on the New York stage. A few photos are the only surviving record of the historic play and Linklater meticulously duplicates its bizarre lighting and modern costumes, giving us an idea of what the actual play must have been like.
On its own, the film doesn't have much to say, but for anyone with an appreciation or curiosity for Welles, it's a pleasure. (Cinema X)