There is nothing more entertaining than watching a film in which
you know the filmmakers had a great time making.  Me and Orson Welles is such a film; a
light, frothy period piece with interesting, funny characters and one
centerpiece performance.

Prior to the screening, the film had been tapped to be Zac
Efron’s breakthrough into the world of more mature filmmaking.  While Efron’s character is indeed the main
character, he can’t even compare to the spirit of Orson Welles prevalent
throughout the film, played uncannily by relative unknown Christian McKay.

Me and Orson Welles takes place in New York City in 1937
and tells the tale of high schooler Richard Samuels, who is cast in a
production of Julius Caesar for the Mercury Theatre, directed by a brash
young man named Orson Welles.

Half the fun of watching this film comes from the fact that
we, the audience, are witnessing a young, arrogant and incredibly gifted man
(whom we know of and is one of the most important figures in cinematic history)
develop into the mad genius that would eventually take Hollywood by storm.  In other words, we are seeing history unfold
right before our eyes.  Even though Citizen
is never mentioned, the subtle hints sprinkled throughout pertaining to Welles’
masterpiece are more than evident.

The performances are wonderful all around.  While Efron doesn’t quite break the mold of
the cookie cutter Disney performer, he definitely shows promise.  If he continues in this direction after
October’s High School Musical 3 it should be interesting to see how he
develops as an actor.

Claire Danes does an adequate job as Sonja Jones, Welles’
assistant and Richard’s love interest. 
She’s essentially playing the same character she’s played throughout
most of her career; while it doesn’t hurt the film in the long run, her
lackluster performance shows when she shares the frame with Efron and
(especially) McKay.

That said, McKay IS Me and Orson Welles.  A theatre actor in the UK, McKay is a
relative unknown in these parts.  But not
for long.  He’s been able to do what so
many have failed to do before him, which is to humanize Welles.  It’s easy for an actor to portray him as the
mad genius.  But to exude a subtle hint
of humility in such a strong, powerful character, that takes great talent and
discipline.  McKay commands the screen
whenever he is present, which is, thankfully, quite often.

While Richard is the main character of this particular story,
Welles is the heart and soul of the picture. 
McKay shows that Welles was both an asshole and a saint; he’d have to be
in order to get away with what he did. 
Even though we see Welles at his belittling worst, we would still jump
into the fire if he asked us, just so we could see an infectious smile and get
a compliment out of him.

Showing an uncanny talent at capturing a specific period in time through the lens, Richard Linklater proves that he is a director who can
effectively tackle any genre without fault. 
The script, by Holly Gent Palmo and Vincent Palmo Jr. (based on Robert
Kaplow’s book) suffers from a number of pacing isses by the end of the third
act, but nothing too severe as to take away from the enjoyment of the
film.  Also, for a film close to two
hours, it seems a little too long for the story it tells.

Me and Orson Welles is a fun, enjoyable film that takes
place during the early career of a highly respected (and feared) artist who
would become a legend.  A wonderful
story, beautiful attention to detail and great performances (primarily McKay’s
stellar, Oscar worthy turn) make for a unique spin on the all too familiar coming
of age tale.

7.5 out of 10