Sunday, 6 December 2009

Me and Orson Welles - Review

Hooray, Hooray, December is here!

To kick off the festive season I decided to go see a film from the director of School of Rock, starring teenage pretty boy Zac Efron. Hardly sounds encouraging. As with many times this year, I was pleasantly surprised with the results.

Set in 1930s New York, young Richard Samuels (Efron) can't believe his luck when he manages to land the role of Lucillus in Broadway's first Shakespearean production Julius Caesar, directed by none other than the legendary Orson Welles (Christian McKay). From this moment on his life is completely transformed, learning from extraordinary actors and catching the eye of a career-driven production assistant, Sonja Jones (Claire Danes).

From the moment the film began you can quite easily see this isn't High School Musical, nor is it cashing in on the cheap thrills and Jack Black humour of School Of Rock. No, this had a very classy, elegant tone fitting of the peroid. The same can also be said for Zac Efron. It was perhaps a bold move for the director to created such a beautifully imagined peroid drama, yet cast a teenage mega-star in the lead role, whose previous experience was essentially a trilogy of 'Straight-to-DVD' Disney films.

He was nothing short of brilliant, filled with confidence, heart and putting in tonnes of effort to hold his own among more established and experienced actors around him. This, of course, mirrored his character, Richard, a boy who loved to romanticize the world, thankful for just being apart of something so monumental.

What makes Me and Orson Welles so refreshing isn't just one break out performance, but two. Before this film people had at least heard of Zac Efron, for better or worse, you can decide. However, very few people would have heard of British actor, Christian McKay, but after his performance as Orson Welles, I have a feeling you will be seeing a lot more of him.

It's a big ask for any unknown actor to take on the role, the persona, the sheer presence of someone like Welles but to deliver it with such a masterstroke was nothing short of remarkable. His style, his delivery, his passion, everything was amazing. Efron was good, but McKay was excellent. If he does not make a Best Actor shortlist at the Globes or Oscars in a couple of months time then there is genuinely no justice. His performance made me want to watch it all over again

Besides the two lead performances, the support cast was stellar, made up of hard working actors such as Ben Chaplin, James Tupper, Leo Bill and Eddie Marsan - whose on screen banter and love/hate relationship with McKay made for some of the best moments in the film. Obviously it goes without saying that the beautiful Claire Danes was a joy to watch, her chemistry with Efron was natural and at times even heart-warming, despite the slight age difference. The film though wasn't 100% perfect, as the story itself, at times, lacked cohesion, with no real conclusion to speak of. This perhaps echoed Welles' real life adaptation of Julius Caesar judging from historical sources.

Final Thoughts
A refreshing, upbeat and highly enjoyable peroid drama. Zac Efron finally announces himself as a serious and creditable actor. The movie however belongs to Christian McKay, who should be someone to watch out for in the years ahead. On the basis of his perfect rendition of Orson Welles, he is capable of incredible things. Overall, Me And Orson Welles acts as an insightful, provocative entry into the life of working in the theatre industry, and the extreme personalities that go along with it. Whether it stands the test of time as other films of similar setting such as the wonderful 1948 classic, The Red Shoes, however remains to be seen.


See this if you liked...
The Red Shoes, Citizen Kane...High School Musical (just sayin')

Me And Orson Welles is in most cinemas now.

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