To be perfectly honest, the only reason I saw Me & Orson Welles in the cinema at all is because it was part of SIFF’s Awards Buzz series. I really wanted to see the other two titles (A Single Man & The Young Victoria), and I am a sucker for a laminated pass. So it goes. I mean, it’s basically a Zac Efron movie, and he can’t act his way out of a paper bag. I would have seen it on DVD however, because I had heard great things about Christian McKay’s performance as Welles, and right they were. He’s magnificent in a role that would have been so easy to tip into caricature or scenery-chewing.
Unfortunately, Efron is the center of the thing, and you can just see the thinking behind it, as if a certain demographic will, like, totally go see a movie about Orson fucking Welles if only it has a *dreamy* lead. Um. No. So what we’re stuck with is glimpses of what could have been a great movie about Welles’ famous modern dress production of Julius Caesar, teases of what a film about that huge personality might have been, and then we’re yanked back to Teen Beat 1937.
Two moments at the end encapsulate the ridiculousness: first, a needle drop of extreme obviousness where “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” plays over Efron looking through clippings about the show, and second, that of course Efron’s English class has been studying the entire works of William Shakespeare, and so Efron winds up reciting (badly) a speech from the play, to great acclaim from his fellow students. Whatever.
To be fair to my motives, I had also rather been looking forward to seeing Claire Danes again, which is a genetic requirement for anyone who grew up on “My So-Called Life”, but the awfulness of the Efron pulled her down. Plus, the relationship between their characters skeeved me the heck out. He’s 17! She’s my age! Ew. Just, ew.
I must also admit that I enjoyed Zoe Kazan as the more age-appropriate love interest, who seems to do nothing but hang out at museums and attempt writing for the New Yorker. She was charming. And Leo Bill as Norman Lloyd was great fun as well. They & McKay deserved a better film, and Linklater, who has done glorious things in the past, should have given it to them.
Finally, I spotted two obvious typing errors in the final credits, which seems just ridiculous. I don’t even read credits that closely! Fail.