Me and Orson Welles Movie Poster Image

Me and Orson Welles

Breezy period film not meant for tween Zac Efron fans.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 114 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The underlying message is that fame and stardom don't measure up to love and learning. But it takes a while for the main character to discover this, and others don’t at all.

Positive role models

A mixed bag. Main character Richard has a can-do attitude that’s hard not to like, though his bravado borders on arrogance. He also skips school and dismisses his mother's concerns. Welles is an egomaniac, but his outsized talent clearly helps others forgive his flaws. And Sonja is so hungry for success that she’s willing to break hearts if it means that she'll make her way into a bigger and better world.


Men argue over a girl; a stage carpenter grows irate with a director, and they nearly come to blows.


A man and a woman spend the night together together; later, she beds another guy, which angers the other (no nudity is shown). Men discuss ways to seduce women and make a bet on which one of them will manage to sleep with a specific woman first. A married actor cheats on his pregnant wife.


A fair amount of swearing, including “sons of bitches,” “bastard” and “s--t.”


Mention of Wheaties.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking; a high school senior downs a glass of wine and smokes a Cuban cigar.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this 1937-set Zac Efron showbiz dramedy from Dazed and Confused director Richard Linklater is a world away from High School Musical (though Efron does sing). It tackles mature themes -- including infidelity and opportunism -- that aren't age-appropriate for Efron’s tween fan base, and the movie's initially slowish pace may turn off even some older fans. But when things get going, the movie is breezy fun for those who appreciate showbiz history. Expect some strong language (including "s--t"), a bit of drinking and smoking, and references to sex (though nothing graphic is shown).

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

It’s 1937, and wunderkind thespian Orson Welles (Christian McKay) is at a make-or-break moment, about to open a modernized version of Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theater. His world collides with that of Richard (Zac Efron), a teenager who yearns to move beyond the confines of his high school. He gets what he wishes when he encounters Welles and his troupe on a busy New York street and is offered a small-yet-crucial part in the play. But is he up to the task -- both as an actor and as a man discovering the allure of women?

Is it any good?


Despite its jaunty pace and rat-a-tat banter, it takes a while for ME AND ORSON WELLES to find its groove. Based on a historical novel by Richard Kaplow, it has the period details down pat, but it feels self-consciously meticulous, unable to really enjoy its script about the backstage foibles of a theater production. Perhaps it’s because, able as he is, Efron feels thoroughly too modern to believe, and the stage actors seem too, well, actor-ly. (McKay, as Welles, is compelling, but you never completely forget that he’s playing make-believe.) Claire Danes, as an ambitious secretary, emotes with authenticity, but even she feels overdone.

Then a funny thing happens on the way to (Caesar’s) forum: Halfway through the movie, we begin to care, largely because a love triangle of sorts develops. And by the time the curtains fall, we care very much indeed and are actually transfixed by the show we glimpse onscreen. (Linklater tried to recreate as much as he could of Welles’ Shakespearean oeuvre, and the icon fascinates.) The soundtrack carries viewers through beautifully, too. Bottom line? The movie’s imperfect, but it sure is a swell diversion.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the movie compares to other coming-of-age stories. What does Richard learn from Orson Welles -- and about himself?

  • Who do you think the movie is intended to appeal to? Does it succeed?

  • Why doesn't Richard feel like high school is big enough to contain him? Is he being fanciful, or is he right?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 25, 2009
DVD/Streaming release date:August 17, 2010
Cast:Christian McKay, Claire Danes, Zac Efron
Director:Richard Linklater
Studio:Freestyle Releasing
Run time:114 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:sexual references and smoking

This review of Me and Orson Welles was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 14 years old Written bycheese-process January 22, 2011

Nothing wrong with it!

The Common Sense review said it was "not age appropriate" and under "Is It Any Good?" they criticized the movie for being imperfect. Well, the Orson Welles character did always seem like he was acting rather than talking normally, but only because the real Orson Welles was like that, along with many self-centered stage actors. Although there were a few tiny mistakes, there was wrong with it. There were some minor suggestive things, and the sex was technically underaged, but nothing was actually shown. The smoking was only for realism--most people smoked back then. It's no big deal.
Teen, 13 years old Written bySelenaGomezfan110 November 9, 2010

Why I rated this iffy for ages 13-14.

Some Scarceley Explicit References to sex, a young Man of 17 drinks a glass of wine due to peer pressure and takes a cuban cigar, but does not smoke it. Plus, the blonde girl is pure trouble. and it seems that all that orson ever does is just cuss.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written bysmartoonkid January 2, 2010
Me and Orson Welles, is a film about the Orson Welles production of Julius Ceaser. The film contains some underage drinking and sex (No nudity) It is a great film that deserves to be seen
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great role models