Sunday, March 13, 2011

Me and Orson Welles. B+

I wasn't just deeply impressed by Christian McKay's personification of Orson Welles, but also by James Tuper's nearly flawless portrait of Joseph Cotton. Though his role is smaller and less demanding than McKay's, Tuper looks more like Cotton than McKay resembles Welles. And McKay really looks and sounds like Welles. These two performances will likely only fully be taken in by the knowledgeable movie fan, but gladly anyone can enjoy the film because of the presence of the very convivial Zac Efron and Claire Danes. For cinephiles, Richard Linklater's movie is about Welles. For everyone else it's about the Efron character, a confident young actor who convinces Welles to give him a part in his play of Julius Caesar. Efron plays a typical naive talent in a big city with dreams the size of the sky. His story, which also includes a winning over a beautiful production assistant (Danes), is one of self-discovery that's as a whole pretty familiar. But the really intriguing aspect of the movie is Welles. Linklater uses him to give the film energy, conflict, and passion. We get a great sense of what Welles was like in person, and why he was so respected in spite of his bumptious, self-important persona. Welles was looked upon as brilliant, a pioneer who thought he was better than everyone and was right. In one scene, Welles, a great multitasker, leaves the stage to do a radio play. In the middle of it he improvises and gives a lengthy monologue to the shock of everyone around him. When the broadcast ends the producer calls it the best thing in the story. Set in the 1930s, Me and Orson Welles offers the expected stylish period design and jazzy soundtrack. Linklater gives the movie a fairly standard look, perhaps to emphasize Welles' character, his domineering presence, his complete genius. Then came Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Lady from Shanghai, Touch of Evil, and The Trial.

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