Me and Orson Welles

1 h 53 min2009X-RayPG-13
When a high-schooler lucks into a role in a Broadway production of Julius Caesar, he's got a lot to learn - the first is to never upstage genius director, 22-year-old Orson Welles.
Richard Linklater
Ben ChaplinClaire DanesZac Efron
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Zoe KazanEddie MarsanChristian McKayKelly ReillyJames Tupper
Richard LinklaterMarc SamuelsonAnne Carli
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
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4.0 out of 5 stars

283 global ratings

  1. 50% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 22% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 15% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 4% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 8% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Michael M.Reviewed in the United States on March 16, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Excellent Morality Tale
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Many reviews of ME AND ORSON WELLES describe is as a lighthearted homage, a delightful backstage story, and so on. My take is quite different. To me, it is a cautionary tale about what happens when you separate art from morality. The hero of the story, 17-year-old Richard Samuels, is too pure for the rough-and-tumble, sycophantic theater world that he seeks to enter. Welles, despite all his literary sophistication, is oblivious to the irony that he is like a tyrannical Caesar. All the members of his company must kowtow to him. The company secretary, Sonja, gives him sexual favors in order to keep her job and advance in show business. Welles consistently cheats on his pregnant wife. Towards the end of the film, Welles plays a duplicitous and self-serving trick on Richard in order to keep him in the troupe for opening night.

Welles and his actor colleagues may create Art with a capital "A," but at what price? Luckily for Richard, he escapes this house-of-mirrors world and finds the beginnings of true happiness with a modest girl he meets in a music shop. The message, to me, is that the meek shall inherit the earth.

Although the poster makes ME AND ORSON WELLES out to be a tribute to Welles and the magic of performing, it is a much darker story than that. Welles and the theater are not heroes at all in this telling. This movie is much deeper than I expected, with a solid moral core, and fine performances all around - including Zac Efrem and Zoe Kazan as the two young innocents and, of course, Christian McKay's stunning recreation of Welles. Highly recommended.
4 people found this helpful
PatiIowaReviewed in the United States on September 6, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
A gratifying film experience.
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I learned about this film from watching a "American Masters" about Richard Linklater on PBS. What a gem! Zak Efrom and Claire Danes are very good but the actor playing Wells, Christian McKay is phenomenal! ,I've always been a little fascinate with Orson Wells, and watched a lot of his interviews and films, I felt I was watching Orson with this actors portrayal! I am sure this wasn't all that successful when first released, but well worth the time spent watching. The history is delightful, and the underlying statements about creativity and genius is gentle but profound while remaining light comedy with an edge, historical but with the feel that you are watching real people. The look, and feel of the whole film; acting, writing, sets, costumes, all seem natural and organic. This is a film worth seeing, and seeing more than once. Makes me sorry I missed it the first time it was released, and even more sorry that there was no recognition for Christian McKay portraying Orson Wells. A wonderful tour de force for director Richard Linklater.
6 people found this helpful
Brian MorganReviewed in the United States on September 7, 2017
4.0 out of 5 stars
"Et tu, Brute?"
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I had wished to see the film, "Me & Orson Welles," directed by Richard Linklater, when it was new, but only saw it tonight, via DVD. It is based on a novel regarding the circumstances surrounding Welles's 1937 production of William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" for the Mercury Theatre, and stars Christian McKay, Claire Danes, and Zac Efron.

While McKay's portrayal of Welles is uncanny, my advice is to skip the film entirely and proceed to the Special Features section to see the twelve-minute recreation of Welles's famous "Julius Caesar." Excepting the fact that the make-up is not redolent of the theatre of the time, the recreation is a marvel. What a thrilling production it must have been, with beautiful chiaroscuro and echoes of the fascism then menacing in Europe. One wishes the film's producers had used the fortune spent on the movie, with its ridiculous romance between the characters of Danes and Efron, and simply filmed a recreation of the entire, historic "Julius Caesar."

We see here what might have been, if Welles had returned to the theatre instead of continuing in the cinema following his early masterpieces, where so much of his energy was spent in questionable film and television work.
4 people found this helpful
AbsolemReviewed in the United States on December 7, 2012
5.0 out of 5 stars
Orson Welles played by a magnificent unknown and Me played by a moderate known
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I came across the trailer for this film on youtube knowing nothing but who Orson Welles was - not the director, what it was about, when it came out, or how critics had responded. Of course I recognized Zac Efron having been in the receiving age group of the Disney Channel Soul Suckers (kidding, but only just), his existence went right over my head and I was instead drawn to Christian McKay (who at the time of this review still has a startlingly slim imdb record *cough* SOMEONE GIVE THE MAN A LEAD IN EVERY MOVIE THERE IS GOING TO BE *uncough*) - because in the two and a half minutes the trailer had to sway me I was convinced that he was already a very accomplished veteran actor I had somehow missed. I found a link, watched the movie online, and bought it the very next day.
The story goes as follows: Richard (Efron) is a bored schoolboy who miraculously talks his way into getting a bit part in an Orson Welles (Christian McKay) production of Caesar, at which point he is quickly shafted to the responsibility of Sonja (Claire Danes). Richard is clumsy, bouncing from one mishap (theatre sprinklers) to another (losing props), and is played well enough by Zac Efron that I forgot this was one of Disney's Golden Boys who are To Pretty to Be by definition, and enjoyed Zac Efron, the actor. Sonja answers phone calls, annotates novels and, driven by the ambition to actually get a paycheck for the work she does, goes on multiple dates with the men of the company - but strictly to get ahead, as she is the Only Sane (wo)Man in the movie.
And then there is Orson Welles. When he is on screen the film is interesting, engaging, and had me gnawing on my lip in anticipation, when he isn't it does lull a bit, but that could just be my perspective. Orson Welles has been called a prodigy, an egomaniac, a genius, a failure. Fistfuls of adjectives float around his name like clouds that could either lead to heaven's gates or burst and release buckets of water. He was just a man really, and Christian McKay plays him as such - a brilliant, artistic, charismatic man who could be immature, vain, amusing, terrifying and constantly at odds with someone or something.
Associates include Eddie Marsan as John Houseman, James Tupper as Joseph Cotten, Leo Bill as Norman Lloyd, and Ben Chaplin as George Coulouris as members of the Mercury Theatre.
This isn't historically accurate, it isn't a flawless film, and if you are looking for problems you will probably find one - but it is a great movie (great enough to snag a 4 star review from Roger Ebert), which provides a great performance by the man playing The Great Man.
6 people found this helpful
M. JacksonReviewed in the United States on March 22, 2014
4.0 out of 5 stars
A fun way into theatre history
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This is historical fiction, but a great way into a monumental moment in the biography of Orson Wells. The opening of the Mercury Theatre in the 1930s by Orson Wells and John Houseman and their production of "Julius Cesar" is all true and many real life people are depicted. However, the story of a teen boy (Zac Efron) having the lucky break of winning a small role is the fiction and through his eyes we get the wonder of a young artist to be experiencing the development of a Broadway show and living in the New York theatre world during the Great Depression. Recreated scenes from the "Cesar" production are as accurate has can be designed from a contemporary vantage point and the ambiance of 1930s New York is expertly done--the attention to detail is wonderful. The tone of the film is that of a screwball comedy without being a send-up. Any theatre lover or fan of Orson Wells will really love this film.
4 people found this helpful
JB SteelReviewed in the United States on June 10, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
This is a fantastic movie. Christian McKay IS Orson Welles
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This is a fantastic movie. Christian McKay IS Orson Welles. His performance and appearance is so right on it's uncanny. Zac Effron is so so. He's seems too contemporary for this period piece. The rest of the ensemble cast is great. I love it because it's a 'two for one'. You get the story of the main character and his relation with Welles as a bit player on Welles' legendary stage production of 'Julius Caesar' AND you get the play itself. Large parts are shown either in rehearsal or performance. There is virtually no photographic record of the show but Richard Linklater meticulously pieces it together from reviews, interviews and 'Me and Orson Welles: A Novel'. Richard Linklater is very underrated director in my opinion who seems to always have his best work ahead of him. This is a very entertaining and literate dramedy. I totally recommend it.
Moe TapersReviewed in the United States on November 17, 2010
4.0 out of 5 stars
"Me and Orson Welles": High School Shakespeare
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"Me and Orson Welles" is a charming, bittersweet narrative built around Welles' creation of an innovative modern-dress staging of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" for his Mercury Theater early in his career. His egotism may be more prominent in the film than his genius, but Christian McKay's brilliant performance suggests depths that the screenplay cannot directly depict.
Like "A Midwinter's Tale" (not yet on DVD), "Stage Beauty" and, of course, "Shakespeare in Love," the film alternates between Shakespearean scenes and the the lives of the actors involved. We see frequent brief recreations of Welles' "Caesar"---and the DVD's "Special Features" provide even more.
Despite its arcane subject, the film is made highly accessible by being told from the point of view of a teenager almost accidentally recruited to play a very minor part in the staging. Zac Efron is perfectly cast here---not just for the very incidental singing and dancing required, but for his wide-eyed initial response to the new world he inhabits and his growing disillusion. He's back in the conflict between real life and stage life (not to mention school and after-school) that dominated the "High School Musical" films, but this time American cultural history is on the line. And Efron's ready for the step up.
No longer a guileless Juliet, Claire Danes skillfully embodies the mixture of sweetness and icy ambition that troubles Efron, and the supporting cast is adept at playing young stage actors who later developed into major screen personalities. Director Richard Linklater not only elicits uniformly vivid performances but presides over an enticing evocation of New York City in the 1930s. This film is very easy to love.
Anyone interested in more about Welles' "Caesar" should look in libraries and rare record marts for the Mercury Theater performance issued by Columbia Records (EL-52 on LP, two discs). In "Me and Orson Welles," Welles plays Brutus and George Coulouris is Antony. That casting is reversed on the recording.
One person found this helpful
Mom_2_3Reviewed in the United States on August 3, 2021
3.0 out of 5 stars
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It was OK. Kinda slow and characters not developed enough to make you care about them. The actor playing Orson Wells was not strong enough to portray such an intense personality. Zac Efron and the rest of the cast were decent with what they had to work with.
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