Sunday, 6 December 2009
REVIEW: Me and Orson Welles
Richard Linklater, more then any other director working I think, has embraced the one for them, one for me policy to the point where its not even funny. For every A Scanner Darkly, Tape or Before Sunset there's a School of rock or a Bad News Bears. Its almost like the guy wants to make good films, and has no issue in making bad ones in order to make that happen. (Although I should admit to having a soft spot for School Of Rock, even if I know I shouldn't.) Me and Orson Welles is kind of a middle-ground between the two. There are elements of corporate man Linklater here, the staging of the play bit is beyond mainstream, and of course the casting of Zac Efron, but visually speaking you can see Linklater having a ball recreating the time and place, and while this is certainly looking at depression era America through rose-tinted glasses, it nonetheless is done so in an incredibly detailed and loving way.
I particularly enjoyed, the film itself aside, all the tween girls who'd wandered into this movie blindly following their icon Zac Efron, and ten minutes in realizing they had walked in to a film about Orson Welles staging a play in 1930's America. Needless to say there were a lot of bored looking teenage girls (and boys) in the audience. The film itself though, despite being lovingly realized is a little twee and self-satisfied, and for a film that goes on about great acting, it could have done with a little more of it. Efron isn't going to be brilliant, but he does his best even if he looks a little lost in the Shakespearean dialogue. Clare Danes looks happy to even be in a movie, given the pretty impressive vanishing act she's pulled in the last couple of years. Still she's serviceable, in a serviceable part. The film was going to essentially live or die on whoever played Orson Welles and how good they were. Newcomer Christian McKay, no doubt cast because of his physical similarity to Welles, which is admittedly very close, and his impersonation is good, but there's something slightly off in his charisma, which hits the OK range much more often then great, and for this film to be anything else other then a production designer's curio, he had to be brilliant. And he's not really. Thus condemning this movie to 6/10 purgatory where nobody remembers it exists in five years, a footnote on Linklater's career and possibly Efron's, if he has one long term.
Like I said before the production design and costumes are meticulously done, and Linklater clearly enjoyed shooting the period, but its just too formulaic and polite to be worth anything beyond polite interest. Linklater will come back with something great though, I'm sure of it.