Don’t look at me that way – it isn’t a Zac Efron film. Honest.
This film by Richard Linklater is an adaptation of a novel, set in 1937, which tells the story of a teenage boy (Efron) who wants to be an actor and ends up getting a part in Orson Welles’ production of Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theatre, meaning we get to see the ins and outs of a theatre production and the life of Orson Welles.
This is a well-directed, well-written and well-acted film. Efron does a good enough job, but I don’t believe him as the character he was supposed to be playing. The other actors in the film, mostly British, do a good job – Ben Chaplin, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly, and Clare Danes as the production assistant with aspiration who gets in between Efron and Welles, but it is Christian McKay as Welles who is the star. He is simply amazing – he is Orson Welles. He inhabits the character and brings him to life, not an impersonation, and he’s a joy to watch. You feel like you’re watching a documentary when he’s on screen, and you feel the passion and the charisma and the energy and mercurial nature. It’s a truly great performance.
This is a really good film, and it’s a shame that it stayed under the horizon because it is a charming film but also an exuberant look behind the scenes of putting on a play – the different types of actor (philandering, nervous, jaded, excited), the pressures of the producers, the buzz of the first night, but without excessive luvvie-ness or that fake feeling of ‘let’s put on a show’, especially as this is based on real people. Well worth seeking out on DVD.