High School Musical star graduates to more mature role

PUBLISHED: 10:57 04 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:35 07 September 2010

Zac Efron takes on a more grown-up part as a young actor getting his first break in a play by Orson Welles Me and Orson Welles (12A) Director Richard Linklater Starring Zac Efron, Christian McKay, Claire Danes, Ben Chaplin, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly

Zac Efron takes on a more grown-up part as a young actor getting his first break in a play by Orson Welles

Me and Orson Welles (12A)

Director Richard Linklater Starring Zac Efron, Christian McKay, Claire Danes, Ben Chaplin, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly

114 mins

Three star rating

The movie opens up with a classic example of production company congestion as we start off with three individual titles telling us that this is a product of CinemaNX, Isle of Man Film and Framestore Features and then as the film itself starts each company is credited on screen again before CinemaNX manages to squeeze in a third mention before the credits proper begin.

The miracle is that the logo BBC Films doesn't get in there somewhere because this pleasant, breezy costume drama recreating the events leading up to Orson Welles's legendary modern dress Broadway production of Julius Caesar in 1937 is right up their street - Shakespeare, period setting, a drama about the theatre. This is something you'd expect of Kenneth Branagh not a director who gave us the term Slacker and whose last film was an animated Philip K. Dick adaptation, but he does a splendid job.

High School Musical star Zac Efron is a high school kid and would be actor who blags his way into the Mercury Theatre and gets a small role in the enfant terrible's daring but chaotic production and falls for an ambitious member of the production team, Claire Danes.

There's a lot of acting going on and it's all very good. Efron is all puppy dog innocence, a performance entirely without edge but that fits the role. Chaplin is arguably the pick of the cast as British actor George Coulouris who plays Marc Antony in the production. Inevitably though the film is dominated by the little known McKay as Awesome Orson.

He's a little shaky to begin with but once he gets into it you fully believe that this is the man and the voice that would one day go on to guest star in two episodes of Magnum PI and bicker about the sentence structure of a script for an advert for peas. (Conversely it has to be said that you never really believe Marsan's incarnation of the young John Houseman is the man who will go on to be the records master in Rollerball.) The downside is that he seems far too old - Welles was just 22 at this time but McKay addresses Efron as Junior and seems to be old enough to be his father.


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