movies: me and orson welles

me and orson welles - all's fair in love and theaterMe and Orson Welles falls into that category of movie inhabited by Shakespeare in Love, The Producers, Moulin Rouge, Stage Beauty and even to some degree (heaven forbid), the High School Musical series... it's a movie about putting on a play.

Although I don't know that in any of those other examples the play when it finally arrives has given me goosebumps.

But the category of movie isn't the only link to the HSM series... the very lovely Zac Efron also stars in this movie... and there's actually a line at the beginning where he's asked if he's done much singing or acting (I can't remember exactly), to which he replies something along the lines of "only in school". I don't know if it was actually a reference to his earlier Disney work, but it made me smile.

Zac does fairly well as the young man who falls under the spell of Orson Welles and the chaotic production of Julius Caesar... and there's no denying that he's sometimes hard to look away from when he's on screen... but that may be because he's so damn pretty. But he does work well as the ingenue (in most senses of the word in fact).

Sadly he and Claire Danes have very little romantic chemistry together (although their scenes together are fairly sweet) which does work against the latter half of the movie somewhat. However, while Claire may be the traditional love interest in the movie, I really think this movie boils down to exactly what the title says... it's about Efron's character and Christian McKay's outstanding portrayal of Welles.

In essence, that's where the love story is... Efron's character is seduced into this strange and intense world of theatre by Welles and it's that storyline that has more depth and interest to it than the supposed love story.

The movie is also filled with a range of character actors (most of whom are English, even though the movie is set in New York) who could have stepped right out of photographs of the period. In fact a number of them have been in other period films...

Ben Chaplin (from the aforementioned Stage Beauty), Zoe Kazan (Revolutionary Road), Leo Bill (the obnoxious fiancé from Alice in Wonderland) and Kelly Reilly (Mrs Henderson Presents) all serve to add that degree of realism to the cast.

I suppose my only complaint is that since I watched Ed Wood on the weekend, I knew that Welles directed Citizen Kane when he was 26, and this movie takes place when he's only 22... but while I guess that McKay could technically pass for mid twenties, I would suggest that 22 is pushing it a little and not surprisingly the character feels much more like McKay's actual age of 35.

There's actually a line something to the effect of Orson being "a young man" though, which did make me stop and go "really?". Although I'm not sure the relationship between Efron and McKay would have worked quite so well if Welles had felt that young (plus Efron was only a year younger than Welles was supposed to be when the movie was filmed).

Some of the best scenes in the movie however happen during the opening night of Julius Caesar... while there are only snippets shown, I honestly had goosebumps during parts of it.

But other than that this isn't really a movie of high highs and low lows... it's sweet, watchable and funny and looks fantastic but it's not amazing.

yani's rating: 3 quadruple spaces out of 5

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