Me and Orson Welles

Orson Welles lives on, not only in posthumously restored director’s cuts of his movies but also as a character in other people’s novels, plays and films — notably Richard Linklater’s deft, affectionate and unexpectedly enjoyable Me and Orson Welles. Adapted from a novel by high-school English teacher Robert Kaplow, Link­later’s movie concerns Welles’ legendary 1937 stage production of Julius Caesar. Linklater views Welles’ achievement from the perspective of a high-school student (Zac Efron). Dubbed “Junior,” the brazen lad gets a minor part as Brutus’ lute-strumming page, just a week before the play is to open. “You’re not getting anything except the opportunity to be sprayed by Orson’s spit,” Welles’ assistant (Claire Danes) good-naturedly warns him. Actually, the callow but competent Junior gets away with quite a bit (up to a point), even as he learns something about performing and human nature — or at least about the nature of Orson Welles. So do we, thanks to a rich performance by British actor Christian McKay, who nails Welles’ ironic twinkle and assured, mocking self-importance. For all of its virtues, Me and Orson Welles is not perfect. The thrifty period mise-en-scène is oversaturated with 1930s popular music, and the screenplay gives only a perfunctory sense of the era’s politics. But percolating with backstage banter and behind-the-scenes maneuvering, it is a spirited, confident and even edifying piece of work.

Categories: Movies