Dave's Rating:

3.5

Him + Welles = Welles

Who's In It: Zac Efron, Claire Danes, Christian McKay, James Tupper, Ben Chaplin, Zoe Kazan, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly

The Basics: It's 1937 and Orson Welles's Mercury Theater is staging a groundbreaking production of Julius Caesar. The big man is acting like a god walking the Earth, his actors and employees fear and hate and worship him in equal measure, and into the circle of ambition stumbles a wide-eyed 17-year-old who thinks he's going to go head-to-head with Welles's ego. In the process he gets taken down several pegs and, because it's Zac Efron, your first (and every subsequent) thought is, "Good."

What's The Deal: How charmed you are by this movie will have everything to do with how much you're able to overlook the weightlessness of its star. Efron is the empty center of the whole thing, bringing a lot of face (he feels like a budget-getting imperative for director Richard Linklater) but not much else. So when his character battles Welles with lines like "Don't call me 'Junior!' It diminishes me!" all you can do is laugh and wonder why they didn't just call it Orson Welles and This One Kid With Too Much Self-Esteem.

Why You Should See It Anyway: It looks decently vintage in that dressed-up-soundstage way and British newcomer Christian McKay is an almost impeccable Welles, capturing that highly entertaining, jerkish, blowhard, knows-what-a-genius-he-is quality you think of when that name comes up. Meanwhile, Claire Danes, as the assistant banging her way up the ladder of the entertainment industry ("He's going to introduce me to David O. Selznick!"), makes that emotionless grasping seem like a perfectly acceptable way for a nice lady to conduct her life.

Further Looking/Further Not-Looking: If you wind up seeing this then you have to then go out and watch Citizen Kane. It'll easily support any amount of megalomania its director has attached to his legend. And while I know it's the single most obvious film recommendation on the planet, I'm always shocked by how many people I meet who still haven't seen it. Then do yourself a favor and avoid the other extremely annoying and self-satisfied Welles-as-he-was movie, Cradle Will Rock.

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