Starring: Christian McKay, Zac Ephron, Claire Danes. Ben Chaplin, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly
Director: Richard Linklater
Writer(s): Holly Gent Palmo, Robert Kaplow (novel)
Cinematography: Dick Pope
Original Score: Michael J. McEvoy
Running Time: 114 Mins.
Sometimes, just sometimes a film comes along, it holds little to no interest for me and the marketing of it slips under the radar, usually this is because of one of two things, either ‘ very good, or those so often mentioned money men don’t quite know how to market said film. This lack of publicity also means there are very few pre-reviews and next to no hype, Me and Orson Welles is a film that fits firmly into this niche and is, in all honesty, a brilliant film maybe not because of but despite the lack of expectation, District 9 was the last film to truly bowl me over in such an unexpected fashion, though admittedly that was marketed to death!
Starring Zac Ephron hardly struck hope into my heart, his smug brand of acting has, in the past, put me off his now evident talents. Though 17 Again was enjoyable enough it just felt a little too lazy and far too obvious to endear me to the guy much, and with his name above the titles and grinning face spattered centre stage on the posters I was left expecting a twee and rather shallow rom-com, though given it is directed by Linklater (he behind fare as diverse and equally accomplished as School of Rock, Before Sunrise and A Scanner Darkly) I should have had more faith.
Linklater applies the same study of relationship’s to life as an actor as he does to anything else in the past, this is not the broad stroke humour of School of Rock or the out and out romance of Sunset but there is such warmth to be found making it a film that is very much deserving of the moniker feel-good film of the year unlike the vastly over-rated Slumdog Millionaire. Its charms are in the form of a trio, Ephron, McKay and Linklater (though everyone deserves credit) namely, I never thought I would find myself saying this, but Ephron is a deeply likeable screen presence, he has the shine of a real Hollywood star, if Clooney harks back to the likes of Cary Grant, then surely Ephron is the product of the bygone Hollywood Golden Age, the Fred Astaire of the 21st Century as it were.
Allowed the freedom to flex his actual acting muscles with a background in musical means he has a lightness and graciousness about the way he moves, acts, and yes on one occasion, sings, he becomes at once likeable and believable in a Hollywood star way, not in the method way adopted by Bale, De Niro et al. In this time where darkness and troubled men and women are seen as a mark of depth and quality it is refreshing to see that great, not just good, films are being produced.
However without the presence of it’s Orson Welles this wouldn’t be half the film it is, Christian McKay was plucked from obscurity (in Hollywood terms) as an actor with a background in the stage, I know little of Welles (I’m ashamed to say) but am aware of his larger than life personality and perfectionist ways, shaping Welles as someone I am this unfamiliar with before the film I can now whole heartedly say that McKay’s is one of THE performances of the year. True acting of the highest calibre, like Ephron he is a joy to watch but not only this he becomes Welles without imitation. Capturing the spirit of a man who used his evidently lofty skills to orchestrate a masterpiece (in this case his stage play of Caesar).
The thrid leg of the majestic likeability of Me and Orson Welles is its sense of time and place and the general structure, provided by Linklater, directed and layered so well, demonstrating how to have a large ensemble cast shine in their minimal parts, we get a feel for what it must have been like to work as an actor, to live in this fairytale like time. True nothing was ever this cutesy but films were designed to offer escapism, not depress us more than our own lives may at times!
The only weakness lay at the feet of Claire Danes, while this isn’t a love story between boy and girl so much, as “the girl” she is offered a rather unlikable part, hell even Welles is likeable when hes doing something totally underhand, coming across as a rather nasty career minded woman Danes plays it so, which to her credit was right given the scripts offerings, but it means she becomes the only sour note in an otherwise perfect production.
A truly great film, Me and Orson Welles is not so good because of the lack of hype, but on its own merits, apparently they don’t make ’em like they used too…on this evidence I would well and truly say they can, and do, thanks to an unlikely trio harking back to Hollywoods golden age.