Sunday, May 6, 2012
Underrated Showcase Sundays - Me and Orson Welles
Time for a confession: I love movies set in the 30's/40's, and backstage dramas. That's exactly what Me and Orson Welles is. It is set behind the scenes of Orson Welles' (played by Christian McKay) 'ground-breaking' stage production of Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theatre in 1937. Where exactly does former High School Musical star Zac Efron fit into all of this? He plays Richard, a teenager who convinces Welles that he is good enough to be given a part in the play, and thanks to some ukulele playing skills he gets the role, despite the fact he's still in school. As with most backstage dramas, Richard is opened up to a world of colourful theatrical characters, which just so happens to include Joseph Cotten (James Tupper), and an older woman Sonja (Claire Danes), who he ends up falling in love with.
Now, I'm not saying that classic films are better (we're all equal, fellas), but I usually find that period dramas fail to capture the essence and magic that the movies from that time had. Me and Orson Welles, however, feels like it could have been made in 1937 - apart from the fact that the Technicolour and sound is perfect. The lighting, the music, the fluffy script, the atmosphere...all of it was just like what I had grown up loving. Richard Linklater's direction is flawless, capturing the times effortlessly without needing to resort to black-and-white gimmickery. What is also really cool about this film is the fact that it shows a sizeable chunk of the performance of 'Caesar'. While I would have loved to have seen more, I really liked that the actual production wasn't pushed aside after all of the behind the scenes stuff. The film is pretty feel good, even if does end on a bit of a downer for poor young Richard. His friendship with aspiring writer Gretta (Zoe Kazan, an extremely talented young actress) does inspire a few smiles. It is just a lovely, fluffy comedy/drama which somehow slipped through the ranks and went by unnoticed, sadly.
The performances are pretty good, with Zac Efron pulling in an extremely good showing even though he was barely out of the High School Musical mould. Claire Danes was also lovely. But by far my favourite component in this movie was Christian McKay and his AMAZING portrayal of Orson Welles. This guy was Orson Welles. Everything he says and does is exactly how I imagine a young Welles would be. He even looks exactly like them. I can't praise his performance enough. It should have won an Oscar. It is one of those performances that dominates an entire movie, and while everything else in the movie was good, I find myself only able to shower praise upon McKay. He's a bloody fantastic actor, also showing his talent in the trainwreck of I Melt with You, but unfortunately not getting much screen time elsewhere. It there's only one reason that you see Me and Orson Welles, definitely see it for McKay, and then join me in my rally to get him in more roles.
Yes, Me and Orson Welles is a fantastic little film, which many classic film fans should enjoy. I mean, it's a little hard not to enjoy this gem.
What I got: