Sunday, November 29, 2009

Me and Me and Orson Welles

Me and Orson Welles isn't bad.

It isn't great, either.

Teen matinee idol, Zac Ephron, is a bit lackluster. He doesn't really have the chops to carry a movie from start to finish. Claire Danes gives a fairly unmemorable performance. (Which is pretty much how Danes' career has gone ever since My So Called Life.) And the script is dripping with cliches. The writers go out of their way to load the dialogue with references to Rodgers and Hart and John Houseman other 1930s pop trivia, in a way that I found sort of phony.

All that being said, the movie is worth sitting through if only for Christian McKay's remarkable Orson Welles.

The voice is so jarringly similar; the features are so close; and the ease with which McKay spits out his dialogue feels so identical to Welles' great, imperial mien that it is really a marvel to behold. After a while you forget that you're watching McKay and think of him simply as Welles.

Me and Orson Welles could have been much better. I was disappointed that Welles' decision to turn Shakespeare's Julius Caesar into a performance set in Mussolini's Italy wasn't discussed at all. That was an extremely political choice and politics are not discussed in the least. (Except when Danes says, "It feels like the world is going to hell..." Oy.)

Moreover, unlike in other movies about famous productions (Shakespeare in Love, or Topsy Turvy) the actual story of Julius Caesar isn't really discussed. Which I think was a mistake.

Finally, the Mercury Players (the group of actors that assembled around Welles) were not given the just treatment they deserve. Sure, Orson Welles was the star of that company, but they were some of the very best actors of their era -- and you wouldn't know it from Me and Orson Welles. Which was likewise disappointing.

But, then, nobody was better at the flawed work of art than Mr. Orson Welles. Was the director, Richard Linklater, making an attempt to keep with that flawed, but brilliant spirit? I highly doubt it. But, nevertheless, cheers to Mr. McKay. A worthy performance.