Things get heated as we get to watch The Mercury rising . . . . . . . .
People surprised by the fact that this movie is directed by Richard Linklater should remember that he views Welles as a “patron saint of indie film-makers” and also that he basically seems to enjoy doing whatever takes his fancy nowadays (the man who brought us Slacker has since hit comedy paydirt with School Of Rock, filmed Fast Food Nation and even dabbled in some rotoscoping TWICE with Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly).
As for people surprised by the presence of Zac Efron? Well, don’t be. The youngster is just fine in the central role of a young aspiring actor who, through good fortune and circumstance, finds himself drawn into the world of Welles and his troupe while they struggle to stage an adaptation of Julius Caesar (one that would epitomise Welles’ blend of skill, fearlessness and ego).
The main reason to watch this movie is, however, the great man himself. He’s played by Christian McKay in a performance that quite simply feels like it IS Welles. Lots of people can recreate the speech and small mannerisms of the great man but few could get absolutely everything just right and convince from start to finish as McKay does.
The story itself is interesting, though predictable enough, and moves along at a decent pace. Claire Danes is a likable potential love interest, Ben Chaplin is fun as a nervous actor, James Tupper is assured, Eddie Marsan is fantastic (as he so often is), Kelly Reilly is good enough with the little she has to work with and Zoe Kazan is great in a small, but memorable, role.
The script, adapted from Robert Kaplow’s novel by Holly Gent Palmo, is sharp and full of many wonderful little biting moments. Linklater directs unobtrusively and, as he should, let’s things stand or fall on the strength of the performances and the lines. Thankfully, both are well above average.
Mixing youthful innocence with youthful daring (stupidity?) and the exasperated flame of genius, it’s clear that the characters of Welles and young Richard (Efron) are supposed to have some similarities. What it leaves up to the viewer to decide is who is actually making the better choices for their chosen path.
Cast: Zac Efron, Christian McKay, Claire Danes, Eddie Marsan.
Running time: approx 113 mins.
Country: UK, USA