Me and Orson Welles
- Paul Dale
- 4 December 2009
The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success. Nobody is greater testament to that than Orson Welles – broadcaster, actor and director who ended his days bloated, impoverished and doing voiceover work on advertisements for any toxic product with the promotional budget to employ him. Filmmakers of more mediocre, less incendiary talents have long been fascinated with Welles. He’s appeared as an incidental character in Ed Wood (Vincent D’Onofrio but voice dubbed by Maurice laMarche), The Cradle Will Rock (Angus MacFadyen), Fade to Black (Danny Huston) and The Simpsons (LaMarche).
Me and Orson Welles returns, like The Cradle Will Rock, to the creation of the monster that Welles became. Set over the space of one week, the film’s time frame is guided by the rehearsals and first night of the Mercury Theatre’s legendary production of Ceasar, directed by Welles in 1937. In to this theatrical bear pit enters young artisan Richard (Zac Efron) who lands himself the role of Lucius. Between Welles’ explosions and sexy assistant Sonja (Clare Danes) it’s going to be a week he won’t forget in a hurry.
Richard Linklater’s likeably frothy behind-the-scenes drama has a lot to commend it, from Christian McKay’s pitch perfect performance as Welles to screenwriter Holly Gent Palmo’s assertions that this was the real birth of modern theatre. That the film doesn’t ultimately work is a structural problem, with outsider protagonist Richard’s situation failing to convince in any way. Still, the performances for the most part are good and the period detail is fantastic.
General release from Fri 4 Dec.