Title – Mank (2020)
Director – David Fincher (Fight Club)
Cast – Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tuppence Middleton, Tom Burke, Charles Dance
Plot – The true story of Oscar winning screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Oldman) as he set about creating his most esteemed screenplay for Citizen Kane and the reflection on life moments that helped form his tale.
“You cannot capture a man’s entire life in two hours. All you can hope is to leave the impression of one”
Review by Eddie on 09/12/2020
His work on the well-regarded Netflix show Mindhunter helped ease the pain of his lack of feature film movement but it wasn’t until the announcement of his dream project Mank, a look at the life of famed Hollywood screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his creation of the legendary Hollywood script that became Citizen Kane, that we could really start getting excited about the adorded directors next piece of work.
Based off a script from Fincher’s own late father Jack, Mank is a typically astute production from the famously picky director who alongside his crew has gone to great lengths to capture the essence of 1930’s/40’s Hollywood, going so far as to capture sound using technology of the day, filming black and white and crafting a score alongside Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross that feels as though it could’ve been lifted from the era itself as it accompanies Fincher’s talk-heavy dramedy.
It’s a prestige film if I’ve ever seen one, one of Netflix’s most prestigiously made so far but for all its technical marvels and wizardry and a great double turn from its leads Gary Oldman as the alcoholic Mankiewisz and Amanda Seyfried as actress and friend Marion Davies, there’s an overwhelming sense of coldness to Mank that keeps you at arms lengths from its main characters and time crossing story throughout the entirety of its two hour runtime.
For anyone that has only a small knowledge base of Hollywood of this time and Citizen Kane as a film, Mank will be even more hard to fall in love with as Fincher assumes a certain level of interest already in his subject matter and those that litter its story, with even Mankiewicz himself remaining a rather aloof figure throughout the tale as we see him bedridden after an accident beavering away on the script that would become his masterwork while also seeing him in action (eg mainly drunk) at various industry get togethers talking politics and world issues.
Viewers hoping to get an insightful look into the mindset or creation of Mankiewicz the person, will leave disappointed while any enthusiastic Citizen Kane fans may find enjoyment in parts from seeing how real life events helped formed the films narrative but a rarely used Tom Burke as Orson Welles and a rather intriguing finale with little of Kane’s legacy explored makes one feel as though there was a lot more to explore about this films main character and the feature he helped create.
The work of the aforementioned Oldman (in rare non-makeup form) and Seyfried is certainly likely to attract great interest come awards season, much like the film itself that is the exact type of production that old Hollywood loves to fawn over but despite their best efforts and the craftsmanship that surrounds them, there’s an overriding sense that Mank badly misses the mark when it comes to enrapturing you in its heart and soul.
It’s rare to see Fincher this playful and even reflective, outside of his underrated classic The Curious Case of Benjamin Button this is his most humanistic tale and one that he clearly relished exploring, you just wish he was able to make you fall in love with the collection of players littered throughout while stringing together a narrative that felt like more than a self-assured showing off of accurate period recreation and call backs to a whose who of the era.
Final Say –
Sure to find a place in the hearts and minds of many viewers and esteemed industry thespians, Mank is a hugely impressive showpiece for the craft it explores but despite all of this its a film devoid of emotion or heart and therefore only entertains to a certain level as we struggle to care beyond an outside interest level of engagement.
3 Giraffes out of 5