Me and Orson Welles – Not So Wellesian

Rating (3 out of 5)

Summary: An uninspiring glimpse of surviving life around a self-proclaimed creative genius of Orson Welles. The movie, released in 2008, offers a brief glimpse at the male-dominated entertainment industry of the 1930s and the struggles of women. Based on various documentaries and stories of Orson Welles I believe the portrayal of Orson, the actors, and crew of the play is accurate.

Plot: A young man Richard (Zac Efron) lands a small role in Orson Welles’s (Christian McKay) play at the Mercury theater in 1937. Richard learns hard life lessons in dealing with Orson and his new love Sonja (Claire Danes).

Detail: The love story between Sonja and Richard is cute. However, the film slows down a little too much while he slowly falls in love with Sonja. If we could sped up the falling in love, the movie would have been better.

The relationship becomes a plot device; 1) provide Richard’s growth from innocent doe-eyed boy to man; 2) force the conflict with Orson and reveal Orson’s pettiness. Sonja’s character reflects the difficulties women had getting ahead in the arts. She is a tremendous networker although not sure I would recommend her strategy to my daughter.

Richard Linklater took care to recreate the 1937 theater and set. Added to the sets is a tremendously authentic performance by Christian McKay. From interviews I have seen, he captured his enthusiasm and unabashed self-confidence in his ideas. The authenticity added a lot to the mediocre storyline.

This is an average movie and I wouldn’t rush to view “Me and Orson Welles”. However, I would use this movie as an instructional video on what happens to an individual lacking emotional intelligence. Orson Welles was truly a gifted artist, but his gifts were squelched by his inability to negotiate within the system. This movie lays out perfectly the interactions demonstrating his genius, but the method leaves a path of destruction in his wake. This portrayal is in line with the documentary on Netflix.