15
Dec 09

Me And Orson Welles Is A Perfectly Fine Grammatical Construction

Do You See + FT1 comment • 491 views

Indeed it is a perfectly fine movie, telling a terrific backstage story with a central capture of a young Welles which tells you a hell of a lot more about the man than any trad biopic would. The film comes on like a Woody Allen period piece, with an eye (and ear) for period detail but filmed on a pretty closed set for budget and story reasons. This is a backstage story you can imagine taking place down the street from Bullets Over Broadway, and shares a generous sense of humour with that film, whilst managing to do Orson Welles the kind of justice that a grand biopic couldn’t do. Indeed Citizen Kane contains within it the best reason not to make such a film about Welles, and not just his own talent for self deceits and fakery. And what better way to discover who Welles really was, but with a fake story starring Zac Efron.

Efron does his job well here, he is pretty, he is a proper male lead which allows Christian McKay to do his extremely impressive Welles. Clearly there is some impersonation here, but there is more of a sense of quicksilver wit, of capricity of a very clever man before the world had battered him into submission. Showing that even at his high point what an egomaniac he was, whilst showing why everyone wanted to work with him and even a sense of the man whose last film would be Transformers The Movie. All through this Richard Linklater makes that notoriously difficult thing to do, the properly family friendly movie. It’ll appeal to anyone who has seen a Welles film (or remembers any voice-overed advert). It’ll sync with anyone who has ever been involved in any kind of acting school or beyond. There is a sweet romance bubbling under the surface and there are characters who are fascinating to watch. Plus no end of Welles Easter eggs, and Linklater ones for that matter.

Perhaps it shows Linklater’s comfort in the film in that the open five minute contains a massive self deprecating gag. As Efron’s Richard, hanging in the big city, gets chatting to wannabe writer Gretta she starts talking about her writing. She riffs on a story idea from their cold meet, what about a story about two people, who enjoy each others company and then never see each other again. They both dismiss it: though you can see that Gretta is taken with the idea. They are of course describing Before Sunrise, Linklater’s signature film, and there is a sly nod in this internal criticism. Exactly the type of thing that Welles would do. And that slyness, is in the end what makes Me And Orson Welles so enjoyable. While the film does not take itself that seriously, it takes the subject, of putting on a play, deathly serious and the result is one of the best backstage films in years. Couple that with a fascinating Welles act and the winning Zac Efron, you get a film that is just solidly entertaining. Despite its pretty horrible poster.

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