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Friday, January 28, 2022

Life + Arts

Houston-born director portrays cinematic legend


Me and Orson Welles is a breezy, lighthearted homage to the theater of the 1930s and to acting, art, radio and one of the most fascinating figures to impact them, told through the eyes of a naive young man.

Me and Orson Welles is the new film from director Richard Linklater. The film is a bit of a departure for Linklater, as it doesn’t closely resemble the experimental indie films by which he made a name for himself (Slacker, Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly), but instead resembles his more mainstream comedies (School of Rock, Dazed and Confused).

The film is adapted from the novel of the same title by author Robert Kaplow, which is loosely based on the real-life events behind the creation of Orson Welles’ famous theatrical production of Julius Caesar.

The original novel is about a young man named Richard who manages to get a bit part in Welles’ theater production a week before its premiere.

Throughout the film, the Mercury Theater troupe deals with all sorts of difficulties in getting the play off the ground, especially at the hands of its eccentric director.

Richard goes along for the ride, meeting, befriending and even flirting a little with the cast and crew that would one day rise to fame with Welles in both film and radio.

The film is basic in its visual style and mainly works as an ensemble drama relying heavily on its acting talents, and there is a lot of talent there.

There are some strong performances in the film that are funny, endearing and intriguing. Most of the actors do a great job, aside from the basic acting of Claire Danes and Zac Efron.

Of special note is the performance of Christian McKay, who portrays the iconic and enigmatic Welles. His performance is entertaining and funny. McKay does a great job of filling the daunting task of portraying one of the most prominent film icons in the world.

The film is a mixes light comedy, coming-of-age, period piece and biopic aspects together. It does a great job of recreating the environment of the ’30s, the iconic Mercury Theater and the actors themselves.

The story is endearing, interesting and funny, but not particularly original, despite an intriguing ending.

Because of all this, the film ends up being a bit of a contradiction.

It’s a story designed for a young adult audience, yet the movie is riddled with references to ’30s pop culture and classic film iconography; it has a sense of humor that often mocks the naiveté and innocence of youth.

The film manages to often mock the very audience it claims to be intended for, making calculated marketing choices such as casting Efron of High School Musical fame a bit of a moot point.

Even so, the film is not without merit. For those with an interest in theater, classic films or the ’30s, it manages to create a great story that covers all these topics with a sense of admiration and wit.

The story is, as Linklater said, “utterly charming,” but with an undercurrent of biting truth.


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