Directed by Richard Linklater
There’s no other artist quite like Orson Welles. No other persona either, for that matter. As far as Mythology goes in both filmmaking and the theatre, Welles sits upon his golden throne tossing lightning bolts down upon us mortal men. He is a god in the industry, and like all such powerful beings, has both his followers and his detractors.
I can’t really say that I’ve ever really been either. I’ve seen only a few of his films, and have never concerned myself with studying his life or his work. At the same time, I see the merit and power that his films contain and can’t help but think that as an actor, there has never been anyone else with such presence on-screen. Even when he’s not the camera’s focus, your eye is drawn to him, his orbital pull drags you in. “Me and Orson Welles” is the new film by Richard Linklater, of whom I have been a huge fan ever since seeing “Before Sunrise”. (My favourite romantic film of all time.) And it is a film that concerns itself heavily with the idea of Orson Welles, the mythology of the man, while at the same time, managing to portray him as something very, very, human.
We are brought into the film, and Orson’s world, through the eyes of a young man named Richard, played by Zac Efron. I can’t say I’ve ever seen Efron act in anything else, but he does a surprisingly admirable job in this film. His character is somewhat unfocused, but I would say the fault for that lies more with the screenwriters than anyone else. Richard is a necessary evil of sorts. Though the film is strongest whenever Orson Welles (played fantastically by Christian McKay) is on-screen, too much of him would have been exactly that. Seeing Orson through the eyes of an impressionable young man allows the audience to interact and relate to Orson in a much more manageable way. Had Orson been the main character of the film and each scene seen through his own eyes, the audience would eventually have become overpowered by it all.
Another area that this film does a magnificent job is in its representation of the creation of a play. Though the film only concerns itself with the final week of rehearsals for Welles’ interpretation of Shakespeare’s “Caesar”, I don’t think that I have ever seen a film capture the behind the scene relationships of those involved in making a play better than this one does. The level of humanity found in this picture is astonishing, and it doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to making its characters more “likable.” Everyone in this film is flawed, most so, heavily. And I found it very refreshing that the film didn’t try to hide that whatsoever.
It’s a shame that this film didn’t find a much wider audience when it was released late last year (and with Efron’s involvement, somewhat surprising). Regardless, if you have any love for Orson Welles, Zac Efron, Claire Danes, Richard Linklater, the theatre, Shakespeare, the 1930’s, or just a well told story, search this film out.