Richard Linklater's very straightforward, refreshingly so, drama revolves around Orson Welles's memorable 1937 Mercury Theatre production of Julius Caesar, set in Mussolini's fascist Italy.
Zac Efron plays Richard, a cocksure 17-year-old chancer who bags himself the part of Lucius after fibbing to Welles about his ukulele-playing skills. The self-possessed but naive high-school student soon falls for Welles's secretary, the fiercely ambitious Sonja (Claire Danes), who craves an audience with Hollywood bigwig David O Selznick.
Linklater's perky tale benefits hugely from the British actor Christian McKay's portrayal of Welles, he convincingly captures the charismatic actor/director's immense ego and conman charm. One minute he flatters Richard with "you're a god-created actor", the next he's berating him for being "a talentless little shit." It also benefits from Linklater's broad brush-strokes; the film doesn't delve too deeply, Citizen-Kane like, into the reasons for Welles's megalomania and talent. He just has it. No doubt there will be a suitably epic mini-series that will cover the rise and fall of this goliath of cinema, but this isn't the place for such intensity. Instead, it's the very simple story, adapted from Robert Kaplow's novel, of a teenager being taken in and spat out by a force of nature, and Efron, after his impressive turn in 17 Again, proves an engaging performer.