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Wasted stage

Movies | Me and Orson Welles shows Efron's shortcomings

Issue: "2009 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 19, 2009

Recreating the story of a famous man is never easy, but Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles doesn't fully justify itself.

Set during Orson Welles' 1937 staging of Julius Caesar, Me and Orson Welles chooses an odd moment of Welles' life to examine. Set before Welles made the indomitable Citizen Kane (at the ripe old age of 26), Linklater's film (rated PG-13 for sexual references and smoking) instead focuses on Welles' interaction with a fictional 17-year-old aspiring actor. Trouble is, he's not much worth knowing.

Zac Efron plays Richard, who falls into a role in Welles' famed staging of Caesar at the Mercury Theater. Richard falls in love with a girl (Claire Danes), finds out she doesn't share his feelings, is both enamored with and disappointed by the great Welles (Christian McKay), and learns a lot about life in a few short weeks.

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Efron is trying out his indie wings here, but he is unable to rely on the singing and dancing talent that made him a teen sensation and is simply not able to support the narrative. Not that there's all that much there. From the pacing to the lighting and the tone, Me and Orson Welles quickly reveals the reasons it almost didn't get a theatrical release.

The romance between Efron and Danes never really gets off the ground, and the entire film has the feeling of set pieces strung together. And while McKay does an admirable job embodying the larger-than-life Welles, it's hard to ignore that a film about acting leads with an unimpressive performance by Efron.

Viewers looking for a light period dramedy may be appeased by the link to history or the design elements, but those things could be better appreciated outside of a $12.50 theater ticket-or with one of Linklater's stronger films.

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