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Review: Me and Orson Welles (2009)


Beginning with the “roaring 20’s,” America not only endured two world wars in the course of twenty-some  years but also entered an era that is thought “scandalous” in comparison to the quiet, proper beauty of the gilded and Victorian ages. The music had a lively beat, the dancing had step to it and dress hems were shortened, raising some eyebrows in the process but perhaps what makes it most interesting is the progress entertainment made.

Life as a New Yorker treats Richard Samuels (Zac Efron) just fine. He is a high school student who aspires to be an actor but has no prospects. Everything changes with one walk down the city streets and a drum roll. Coming upon an eclectic group of people gathered in front of a theater brings Richard face-to-face with the great Orson Welles (Christian McKay) and with that, his prospects are suddenly improved. Impressed enough with Richard to hire him for a minor part in his latest Shakespeare production on stage, Richard is thrilled to be working with this troupe of actors. Not a man who likes to be questioned, Orson refuses to set a firm opening date or accept any blame for the downfall of his theater and instead points the finger at his business partner (Eddie Marsan), and he is just arrogant enough to command the attention of, if not the respect of his actors. Coached on how to make the right impression by aspiring actress – and Orson’s assistant, Sonja Jones (Claire Danes), Richard’s friendship with her soon turns into a matter of the heart… and that may turn out to be his humiliation.

This was a film that piqued my interest for a while now, the reason being twofold. One was Efron, the other, of course was a love of period films. Finally I picked it up at the rental store quite on a whim and though I am not sorry to have satisfied my curiosity, this movie far from gratifies its audience. Throughout the entire run of the film, I wondered what the motives behind it were. Sure, sometimes a film needs nothing more than fun characters and some laughs to entertain but I was left with lingering questions as to what I knew about these characters – who were they really, and where did they come from? While watching this one, that thought kept bouncing through my mind though everything is pretty to look at – costumes and sets, and the acting isn’t bad there is really nothing all that compelling in this trip to yesteryear.

Suffice to say, Efron has come a long way since his Disney days. He has become an actor worthy of leading man status no matter critics’ complaints. This isn’t his most current role but still I was impressed with him even while wondering where he stood as a character; was he genuinely a wide-eyed naïve kid who thought the best of everyone or did he allow himself to be taken advantage of? Mckay likewise was wonderful playing a well-known name though his credits are unfamiliar to me and I am not a fan of Welles work, it seemed like he put up a creditable portrayal. The supporting cast is not to be diminished either – everyone was spectacular from Marsden to the luminous Kelly Reilly who was equally charming in her all-too-rare scenes, particularly in her scene with Efron when she gives him a peck on the cheek. (Ironically, Reilly and Marsden are also co-stars in Sherlock Holmes.) She is one actress I’d like to see more of – especially in period dramas; she has a unique look that works well for the genre.

In all fairness, I cannot say that I didn’t find this a charmer… it was cute but the length that the play is filmed and shown on-screen bored me to some extent since no matter how I try, I just don’t get Shakespeare. Saying that, there are several heartwarming scenes that never realize their full potential because we don’t care about the characters as we want to – and believe me, these characters desperately want to be liked. In the end, it feels like the story had no purpose because Richard doesn’t have a thing to show for his troubles though there is the promise of a future that is bright. Fans of this era may want to indulge in this but if you want my advice, I’d recommend going with the charming MissPettigrew Lives for a Day instead.

(What to know: Implications reveal that Orson is a womanizer – he has a mistress in addition to a pregnant wife and flirts with anyone who catches his fancy. We are even led to believe that he and Sonja occasionally share a bed; the actors have a bet on who will get into her pants first. She and Richard do return to her place after an evening out and once, he refers to her as his “lover.” Social drinking is a-plenty as is profanity. GD, Jesus, sh*t and various other profane language is heard. The film is rated PG13.)
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Rissi
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6 comments:

  1. great review, girl! i still want to see this, purely for zac efron. ha
    xo TJ

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  2. Zac is fabulous in this, TJ! I hope you see it and enjoy - I'd watch it again but it wasn't my fave.

    Thanks. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your review totally describes my feelings about this movie. I was also kind of bored with the Shakespeare part and was left wondering what the point of the movie exactly was. And you're totally right in recommending Miss Pettigrew as a better movie about this era!

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  4. Yeah... I was just sort of "so-so" about this one, Birdienl. I liked it alright but didn't fall in love with it like 'Pettigrew.' (So cute!) I'd watch this one again but it won't find a spot on my shelf. :-)

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