I couldn’t help but think that Efron, when he says to Schilling’s character Beth, “I know you deserve better than this,” was actually speaking to the audience.
Luckily his other films are less about his looks and more about his ability. The Paperboy is an odd film. It’s an art house thriller — meaning that there aren’t many thrills — in which each of its stars do some fairly intense envelope pushing in a story about a reporter returning to his native Florida to investigate a murder.
Paired with risk-taking actors like Nicole Kidman, David Oyelowo, John Cusack and Matthew McConaughey, Efron works hard to shake off the early teen idol gloss that made him famous. He mostly succeeds, although director Lee Daniels’s camera still caresses the actor, taking full advantage of his effortless appeal.
In Me and Orson Welles, Efron is overshadowed by an actor playing a man who died many years before the core audience of this movie was even born. Christian McKay plays Orson Welles with such panache that Efron becomes a supporting player in his own movie but still makes a strong impression as a teenager with dreams of being on stage in this handsomely mounted period piece.
Other films like At Any Price, a 2012 powerful tale of fathers and sons and the pressure to succeed, have shown not only his depth but his willingness to stretch as an actor.
So why does Efron, who could have a movie franchise career in a heartbeat, look past the obvious career path?
Efron told the Hollywood Reporter that his often eclectic acting choices are always artistic in nature and never about money.
“I’m constantly searching for characters that are about betterment of self and betterment of others,” he says. “And I’m searching for those parts because those are the ones that make me happy. They’re the ones that fulfil me personally.”