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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

ME AND ORSON WELLES

By D.E.Levine

Director: Richard Linklater
Writers: Holly Gent Palmo and Vincent Palmo Jr. (screenplay); Robert Kaplow (novel)
Cast: Zac Efron, Claire Danes, Christian McKay, Bert Chaplin, Zoe Kazan, ERddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly, James Turner, Lero Bill, Al Weaver, Ian McKee, Simon Lee Phillips et al.
Producers: Ann Carli, Richard Linklater and Marc Samuelson
Executive Producers: Steve Christian, Steve Norris ad John Sloss
Co-producers: Holly Gent Palmo and Vincent Palmo Jr.
Associate Producers: Sara Johnson and Jessica Parker
Line Producer: Richard Hewitt
Original Music: Michael J. McEvoy
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Country of Origin: United Kingdom and United States
Language: English

This is a sweet, heartfelt film about life in the theater. Centering around a young actor, Richard Samuels, who lucks into a small part in Orson Welles' "Julius Caesar", he enters a world where everyone is terrified of the 22-year old genius Welles and emotions offstage are just as intense as those onstage.

The tumult of putting on a stage production is brilliantly showcased with what can only be interpreted as a real love of theater.

The naive Richard is led on by Welles' assistant Sonja, who is lusted over by all of the male cast. Infatuate with Sonja, Richard believes she has emotions for him until he discovers her involvement with Welles and her attitude of "I have to take care of myself."

Zac Efron surprises by coming across as a charming and sleek matinee idol. However, the real surprise is Christian MaKay's portrayal of Orson Welles.

While it's true that McKay has previous experience playing Welles onstage, his portrayal is uncanny as he creates an enfant terrible.

His players are terrified of him and Linklater and the cast do a superb job of conveying that, something that all historical records confirm.

Because we know that Welles was a man of great brilliance who rose to great power and accolades and was deprived of everything by the studios because of his self destructiveness, the portrayal of the young Welles has a foreboding feel and sadness about it.

Although it's 24 years after his death at the age of 70, Welles remains a figure of great interest. He was definitely a multi-tasker and because he was so good at everything he did he incurred the resentment of many, if not all, his collaborators.

This film is a gem about the theater and theatrical life. While staging productions on Broadway, Welles also starred in several radio shows and was famous for his active social life.

It's not necessary to know much about Welles' life in order to enjoy this film. Steeped in theater lore, with representations of real life actors and directors who were involved in Welles' productions, Me and Orson Welles is entertaining and insightful into the life of a legend.