"Smell of the Greasepaint"
What You Need To Know:
Zac Efron does a tremendous job in ME AND ORSON WELLES. As Richard, his buoyant, boyish demeanor works perfectly. The other actors do a serviceable job, but sometimes lapse into stereotypes. Although this is a small budget movie, the production values are terrific. Regrettably, the movie has no moral compass. People use and abuse each other. Also, the movie’s strong humanist worldview is constructed in such a way that viewers root for people to lie and to succeed in their lying.
(HHH, Co, Ab, LLL, V, SS, AA, D, MM) Very strong humanist worldview extolling free love, egotism, selfishness, disloyalty, and mendacity, with some Communist overtones and at least one reference mocking Christianity; about 26 obscenities and 26 profanities; light comic violence when man falls down trapdoor plus actors kill Julius Caesar on stage with fake blood; 17-year-old boy fornicates with older paramour of Orson Welles, many discussions of sex, and Welles tries to cheat on his pregnant wife with every woman he meets; no nudity; alcohol use, including by 17-year-old boy; smoking; and, lying, greed, cheating, and bullying.
Having grown up in the theater industry, I found ME AND ORSON WELLES a fascinating recapturing of my youth as well as an annoyingly irreverent, humanist movie.
Richard, played by Zac Efron of HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3, wants to be on the Broadway stage. On Nov. 5, 1937, he gets hired by Orson Welles to play a small but significant part in JULIUS CAESAR, Orson’s first production at his newly founded Mercury Theater. Welles, we should note, is the villain, a charismatic but often cruel and licentious bully who sleeps with every starlet he meets, even though his wife is pregnant with their first child.
In the midst of this jaded company of actors, stagehands, and assistant, Richard is a naïve breath of fresh air. He also has, as Welles says, God-created talent, but Orson says that to everyone. Claire Danes plays Sonja, Orson’s ambitious assistant. Although she is one of Orson’s paramours, she takes time off from Orson to bed Richard. This leads to the crisis the day before the play’s supposed to open. When she goes back with Welles, Richard fights for her, and Welles fires him.
Will the play go on? Will Richard become the great actor he wants to be? Will the cast survive this intense production that is extremely low budget?
Zac Efron does a tremendous job in this movie. As Richard, his buoyant, boyish demeanor works perfectly. The other actors do a serviceable job, especially newcomer Christian McKay as Orson Welles, but every once in a while lapse into stereotypes. Although this is a small budget movie, the production values are terrific. It is very close to a documentary on the New York theater scene. These characters exist, and the setting reflects real life.
Regrettably for media-wise families, ME AND ORSON WELLES has no moral compass. Young Richard gets seduced by Sonja, who tells him to come to bed. Sexual exploits are discussed. The name of Jesus is used pointedly as a curse word. And, there’s at least one reference mocking Christianity.
The movie’s ending does not alleviate this moral and spiritual degradation. There’s no sign of a moral redemption at the end. People use and abuse each other. The movie is constructed in such a way that viewers root for people to lie and to succeed in their lying. This is tragic, because the story could have been a great story and could have ended on a high note instead of an artsy, ambiguous, humanist letdown.