After convincing Orson Welles (Christian McKay) to give him a key role in the first Shakespearean play to run on Broadway, 17-year-old Richard (Zac Efron) finds himself on shaky ground when he clashes with the manipulative director over pretty assistant Sonja (Claire Danes). Sonja’s ambition, Richard’s desires and Welles’s controlling nature all add up to more drama off stage than on for the Mercury Theater’s production of Julius Caesar.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Christian McKay’s performance as the iconic director Orson Welles carries the movies and blocks out the shadow of Zac Efron’s misplaced casting as Richard, a starry-eyed high schooler who yearns to be an actor.
This is a fictional story about Richard, who stumbles into a role in a version of Julius Caesar being adapted by Welles in this fictional story. It’s set in 1937 New York, just before Welles was in his prime. McKay it spot on as the often brash, often brilliant Welles who was, at this time, stuck in a meager theater with lesser talent. It was before Citizen Kane was made in 1941. Not only does McKay play Welles, but he also plays Welles playing Brutus, delivering some powerful Shakespeare scenes. I was astonished that this was McKay’s first film. He had a couple small parts in television and has a stage career in his home city of London. This is the kind of performance that will be forgotten, because this film wasn’t a massive, mainstream success, or it will launch a successful film career.
Efron, better known for his roles in “High School Musical” and its myriad sequels, is a bit wooden. He plays opposite Danes as his sort-of love interest. She’s her usual sharp self as an older gal working on her career in the Big Apple, far away from her home in Ohio. But she’s no small-town girl, and the two have a bit of a complicated relationship. The is sort-of a coming-of-age tale, sort-of a story about Welles rising career, and sort-of a decent little period piece. The problem is, it loses focus and it’s sort-of not that great.