I’ve been a fan of Orson Welles and his movies for many years, so it’s no surprise that I’d watch ME AND ORSON WELLES, a backstage yarn from the point of view of a high school student and would-be actor who finagles his way into a part in Welles’ modern-dress Mercury Theater staging of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” in 1937. It’s a coming-of-age story, too, as the kid not only learns a lot about the theater and Welles’ eccentricities but also falls in love with the young woman who helps manage the troupe.
This is an old-fashioned movie, not flashy at all, well-written and very well-acted. Zac Efron is the kid, Claire Danes is the young woman he falls in love with, and Christian McKay, an actor I’d never heard of, turns in a spectacular performance as a young Orson Welles. McKay looks like Welles and does a good job on the voice, but mostly it’s a matter of capturing the attitude, the mixture of arrogance and brilliance that allowed Welles to accomplish the things he did. Also, knowing quite a bit about Welles’ later career, it was interesting to me to see the origins of some of the projects he tackled later on. The movie does a fine job of recreating the Thirties atmosphere, too.
Maybe it’s just because of the subject matter, but I think ME AND ORSON WELLES is one of the best films I’ve seen this year. Highly recommended.