Who’s In It: Zac Efron, Claire Danes, Christian McKay, Ben Chaplin, Zoe Kazan, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly, James Tupper
The Basics: New York City, 1937. Dreamy teenager Richard Samuels (Zac Efron) skips class to walk the streets of Manhattan in search of something or other and charms his way into a production of “Julius Caesar” headed by up-and-coming actor, theater director, and future wine commercial shill Orson Welles (Christian McKay). Given the cherry role of Lucillus to Welles’ Brutus, Richard bears witness to the ins and outs of life at the Mercury Theater, where temperaments flare and romance blooms but everything revolves around the egomaniacal, charismatic Welles. Richard also finds himself drawn to the slightly older wannabe actress Sonja (Claire Danes as a cougar!).
What’s The Deal: Richard Linklater directed Me and Orson Welles, but unfortunately for him, you can’t tell. This seriocomic period piece is as blandly pretty as its star, who’s trying to break away as safely as possible from his fresh-scrubbed High School Musical persona. It’s a nice enough vehicle for Efron to show off his charm and Linklater surrounds his young star with an adept cast of supporting actors playing real life Welles collaborators. But its story is so lightweight, its characters’ dramas so boring, you’re left wondering what the point of it all is – aside, of course, from allowing Efron to shine and sing and play the guitar and look pretty.
Orson Welles Was Such An Egomaniac, Even McKay Steals The Show: Just like the real Orson Welles, actor Christian McKay owns every room that he walks into. His performance is Welles-as-man-crush, the kind of magnetic jerk that people love even when he’s making them cry. He cuts actors’ entire parts out of his play on a whim, never forgives, arrives late to rehearsals, and obnoxiously rides around town in an ambulance, sirens blaring. This Welles is also a ladies man, so McKay gets to mack on just about every hot woman in the cast – and, when he betrays Richard, he lays that roguish charm on him, too. The lesson here is obvious: A-holes get everything in life! If only Efron could take a cue or two from Orson Welles and sully that All-American image, he might actually start to be interesting in ways that don’t involve Tiger Beat and dating Vanessa Hudgens.
Enough With The Tired, Cheesy Dialogue: If the target demographics for Me and Orson Welles are grownups and the older segment of Zac Efron’s teen idol fan following (both of which I belong to), then the screenplay by Holly Gent Palmo and Vincent Palmo Jr. alienates both by playing it safe and going for tired period slang like “That’s keen!” and fading to black when anything remotely racy is about to happen. What pre-teen fans are going to get references to Gene Krupa and David O. Selznick? Not the kind that are watching High School Musical. And the kind that watch High School Musical are the ones who are watching Me and Orson Welles just to get their fix of Zac Efron and his dreamy eyebrows.
Career Advice For Zac Efron: