As I've mentioned, I had to trek into NYC to see this movie, as I was too afraid it would disappear from theaters before it made it’s way out to Long Island. The train ride home afforded me time to reflect on M&OW, and relish a Film I had come to define as “the little movie that could.” The perseverance that Linklater exhibited to get this Film distributed and onto the big screen is admirable. After Toronto, which was dubbed a failure when no one picked it up, I feared M&OW was destined for a straight to DVD release, effectively robbing moviegoers the chance to see it on the big screen. I believed, based on the reviews it had received, McKay, as much as Zac deserved better.
As I arrived at the theater, I noticed a small, typed noticed taped to the ticket window. I was completely and utterly dismayed to learn that the evening's 8PM show would feature a Q&A with Christian McKay! Christian Fucking McKay!!!! This had to be one of the biggest WTF moments I'd experienced in a long time. I lamented to the guy behind the counter as he filled my popcorn bucket, “how could you have NOT advertised this?” I certainly would have arranged to go to the later showing instead of the early afternoon performance I now found myself at. If they had only posted something on their website, I readily would have. Its not like I hadn't been checking it on a near daily basis in order to plot when exactly I would make my trip into the city, because, yea, I had been that excited.
But enough complaining. I was excited, I was finally going to see Me and Orson Welles!
Comparing the Film to the novel is inevitable, but I'd steeled myself against the possible let down which is generally expected when seeing a beloved novel adapted to the screen. Having had no self-restraint against spoilers, I went into the experience knowing what aspects of the story had been edited out of the screenplay. But unlike other movies, I believe Richard, and the Film's writers left the majority of the story intact. Yes Richard's character could have benefited from a few more scenes that centered on life back in New Jersey—in particular his obsession with losing his virginity—but that was not meant to be. Hopefully, the DVD will provide such goodies in the form of deleted scenes.
There were enough people milling around the lobby that they asked us to form a line outside theater #3, and as I looked down the line, yes THE LINE, a nice healthy, long line, I noticed something pretty incredible. It was populated by a demographic that most definitely made full use of the “senior citizen discount.” I overheard one such lady remark, “well there won't be anyone under 50 at this movie, since they wouldn't have a clue who Orson Welles was.” Then she noticed me. “What are you doing here my dear? Are you a fan?” I hesitated, knowing full well she was referring to Orson—I am a fan by the way—yet I nodded shyly, because little did they all know, I was here for that other guy. As we waited to be let in, I nibbled on my popcorn, grinning over the irony that this was the first, and likely last time I would be the youngest fangirl in the crowd.
In a nutshell, I loved it. I felt the story moved along at just the right pace, and along with the lighting, scenery, costumes and music, I thoroughly enjoyed Richard Linklater's “valentine to the theater.” I don't fully agree with the judgment that Zac's character was one dimensional, and was woefully underwritten. Although much of his back-story was left out, I did feel that the elements we’re given were enough to ensure we knew Richard. In particular, the scene with Sonja where he asserts “we may have a show that people will remember for 50 years,” demonstrates what drives him, the passion that makes him want to create. And a moment later, when she asks, “what are you offering,” his cocky, bullshit answer provided one of the loudest laugh out loud moments. It's a scene that has been discussed a lot since it was part of the trailer, and many of us weren't sure it worked. Zac delivers these lines with enough heart to be convincing, and answers the question of “who he really is” quite effectively.
Christian of course was magnificent, and I really hope he earns a slew of nominations for this role. Every adjective used to describe his performance is accurate as he conveys every facet of Orson's persona. Brilliant, charismatic, manipulative, egotistical, revolutionary, calculating, and occasionally vulnerable; he captures it all. I keep rereading the same words to describe Welles, and I found it interesting that the Mercury’s cast of players view him in much the same way. One attribute that stuck out for me was “coward.” I honestly believe the audience thought Richard would get his job back. Orson isn’t noble, and selfless, yet they hoped he might have been, but Richard makes one demand too many before agreeing to come back for opening night. By foolishly advocating the set designer’s cause, Richard ensures Orson won't be noble, and the whole company knows it.
I feel most of the criticism directed at Zac’s ability as an actor is unfounded. I don’t know, maybe I am too biased, but some of the harsher remarks are simply baseless in my opinion. For example:
"Zac Efron, has two performance modes: the thousand-yard stare, and the thousand-yard stare with a smile. In the backstage drama Me and Orson Welles, set in 1937, he slips between these two modes with ease."
I would counter that argument with 2 scenes. The first being the sprinkler scene, whereby we see a full range of emotions—helplessness, fear, shame, fortitude, and Richard’s ever-present brand of cockiness—exhibited by Zac as the scene concludes with Orson happy that the mishap occurred because he had been anxious about “the bad luck.” Another important scene was when Richard waited for Sonja after her night with Orson. I’m not even focusing on the confrontation with Welles, what impressed me was how he sat on that stoop, looking scared and vulnerable, and being completely unsure what he should do. Richard’s worst fear is confirmed when Sonja and Orson finally emerge, and he’s stripped of his false bravado. In its place is a heartbroken young boy who knows his brand of bullshit isn’t going to help him win this situation. So I think I’ll stick with Linklater’s assessment that he knew he had “the right guy for the role 15 seconds in.”
I also liked the chemistry between Claire and Zac, and felt it was believable. The scene in which Richard experiences his own “quadruple space” is priceless. He captured the “holy shit this is really gonna happen” vibe perfectly, and once again the audience was laughing. Overall everyone appreciated all of the comedic moments, and there were a good number of them.
The only real fault I found with the movie was the ending. It was good, enjoyable, and the dynamic between Richard and Gretta was endearing and hopeful. But they cut the scene where Richard comes to terms with being ousted from the show, and must accept that he may just be ordinary after all. In the novel, he stands alone on the rooftop of a building, overlooking the City and reflects on all that has happened to him over the past week. He’s learned a lot, and I wish I had the book to quote the passage. I really enjoyed it when I read it, and it would have been great in the Film, especially as a narrative voiced by Zac. All in all I found the Film to be wonderful, and agree with all those saying Zac has a bright future ahead of him. He’s proven he’s more than just “that musical kid,” and dispels the notion that he’s only gotten as far as he has because of his good looks.
On the way out of the theater, I was in for one more surprise. One which somewhat makes up for missing the Q&A by Christian tonight. A man stood outside the theater asking people if they had just watched M&OW. I waited my turn, curious to know what it was all about. He turned to me and said, “I guess you saw the movie. I can tell by your smile," then proceeded to hand me this card……
For those of you who saw the movie, you know it’s a replica of the card Orson leaves each member of his cast on opening night, right before the curtain rises. I asked this gentleman who he was, and he told me he was a friend of the Kaplows, and that they were offering a gesture of goodwill in an effort to help spread the word. He went on to say that if I enjoyed it, I should tell my friends, to which I assured him I most certainly would. His final comment to me was that if I knew any “teenage girls” I should tell them to come out and support Zac Efron……..*Snort, he should only know!
.........The Little Movie That Could.