Starring: Zac Efron, Claire Danes, Christian McKay, Zoe Kazan, James Tupper, Leo Bill
This is like half of a good movie, which then meets up with some Coming of Age Male fantasy that I don’t really understand or feel like I have to. Me and Orson Welles is about Richard Samuels (Efron), a 17-year-old who is cast as Lucius in the Mercury Theater production of Julius Caesar. The movie is awesome when it’s about the production and Orson Welles– Christian McKay is brilliant– but the movie is really terrible whenever Zac Efron’s involved.
Zac Efron is evidence ‘A’ that the Disney Acting School for Young Actors teaches bad habits. Not only can he not deliver jokes very well or have chemistry with love-interest Sonja (Danes), but it’s really obvious that he doesn’t know how to sing correctly. He has an okay voice, but it’s been trained to end every note on a high inflection, which makes him sound a) nasal and b) 21st century pop-style.
Strangely enough, part of the problem isn’t just Efron. His character is a skeez in the script, at once annoying and rather misogynistic. For one thing, he’s That Dick when he’s in class, around his rich family, talking to Sonja, et al. He just lies and then acts innocent, and is pretty much a grade-A dick. He also throws out these old-time words like he should be pat on the head for remembering them, it’s so cute.
I’d even go so far as saying the film is misogynistic, where the men can place a bet on whether a woman will put out, but if she sleeps around she’s in the moral wrong. That said, that comes from Richard’s perspective and I’ve already outlined why he’s a dick.
Sidenote: Here’s where I’m getting a Juvenile Fantasy vibe from, like here’s an older lady vying for some inexperienced Jailbait action. Naturally. Danes, for her part, is a peach who’s just been given the wrong material. Her character doesn’t have much to do besides talk about possibly meeting David O. Selznick and not have any chemistry with Richard.
Okay, so here’s where the movie did right: Christian McKay is awesome. He’s great as Orson Welles, and I’m kind of hoping someone is working on a Welles biopic screenplay so that he can play him in a better movie. There are parts that are him directing the actors onstage and yelling at the band, and those were great. If the movie had just been about preparing for opening night, sans Efron, it would have been great.
The opening night montage was really epic, actually, and got across what a game-changer this version of Caesar was. I really liked Leo Bill as Norman Lloyd (he also played Darwin in The Fall), so I like him even more. James Tupper really looks like Joseph Cotton, but I wish they had given him some voice training in order to sound like Cotton. Would have anted up the film for me, I’m just saying.