"Mank" is a film that seems as if it was never intended to be seen by most of the public. And, while most film critics and the Oscars loved the movie, the average person would have doubtless left the theater (or Netflix) completely confused. After all, to really appreciate the film and follow it, you need to know who folks like Irving Thalberg, William Randolph Hearts and many of Herman Mankiewiecz's contemporaries. I do, mostly because I am a retired history teacher and old film nut...but I am also not the average person. For them, I really feel sorry, as the film bounces back and forth in time and involves all sorts of people long dead....and soon to be forgotten.*
The story is a semi-fictionalized biography of Herman Mankiewiecz and it centers on how he wrote "Citizen Kane". The problem is that the movie goes on the assumption that he pretty much completely wrote the script and based it upon his contact with Hearst and his mistress, Marion Davies. While this is true...it's partially true according to most sources. The contributions of John Houseman and, especially, Orson Welles, are almost completely ignored by the film. So, my advice is don't take the film as the gospel truth...though I do appreciate how the film also manages, at least a bit, to show that Marion Davies was NOT the talentless idiot she was shown to be in "Citizen Kane"...something that just seemed cruel from that screenplay.
Overall, I found the film fascinating and with some excellent performances. But it's also not a film that I loved...mostly because it seemed to have an agenda...one that was more important that giving the entire truth.
*This film is full of inside jokes and cleverness that completely passes over the heads of most viewers and that annoyed me a bit. For example, when talking about the author Upton Sinclair, one comment made was that someone was so dumb that they thought he wrote "Elmer Gantry"...a book, incidentally, that was written by Sinclair Lewis (though they never explained this confusion nor why it is easy to make for most people). This just seemed awfully elitist.
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