Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Review: 'Me and Orson Welles' [B]

By Chase Kahn

Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles, which was the fat kid at kickball for over a year, waiting to find a distributor after its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in September of '08, is a delightful slice-of-stage-life drama, a safe but not lethal coming-of-age story and a showcase for the performance of Christian McKay as the titular Orson Welles.

Young Richard Samuels (Zac Efron) is an awe-struck, inspiring actor miraculous cast from the street to star in Orson Welles' Mercury Theater production of Julius Caeser in '37. Holly Gent Palmo and Vincent Palmo Jr.'s script (based on the novel by Robert Kaplow) deftly mixes elements of the Welles mystique before it hit the big-screen with a keen eye into what it takes to become a noteworthy artist.

As somewhat of an authority on Orson Welles, I found the film appropriate in its portrayal of Welles as an egotistical, arrogant, slimey, yet brilliantly transcendent artist. There are obvious hints at the man who would later be outcast from Hollywood (he even reads a passage from Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons) including his constant heckling from various higher-uppers and powers-that-be, struggles with deadlines and bickering amongst employee, fellow actors and/or understudies (Efron).

In the end, Me and Orson Welles is the story of what it takes to become an artist in the creative realm. You can't soft-peddle it or hope for the best, you have to know somebody, you have throw all manner of morals and honor to the wind and take it, no matter the cost. It may have eventually cost him his mainland career down the road, but as Christian McKay's Orson shows, he wouldn't have it any other way.

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