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  • "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'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 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.
  • Hitchcoc15 April 2021
    I agree with those who feel cheated because this film lacks the effort to show us the personalities of those who made movies in the golden days. Mankiewicz is so random and so troubled that I couldn't get a real direction. From word one I had trouble feeling any sympathy for this man. Gary Oldman is startlingly good, but the direction and writing put him on the stage alone. I would love to have gotten to know a bit more about the other characters from Thalberg to Hearst. I really looked forward to seeing this and sadly will not watch it agaain.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Mank" is an American mostly English-language movie that premiered back in 2020 and now finally reached movie theaters here as well and it was a long and hard road to watcht his one I can only say without wanting to go any further into detail. The outcome was unfortunately not as satisfactory as I would have liked it to be. I got mostly curious about it because this film was one of the biggest players this recent awards season and took home two Oscars as well. The one for its production design was expected by many, but the trophy for its cinematography came as a bit of a surprise because Nomadland dominated the awards season until that point in this category. I think the visual aspects are probably among the film's biggest strengths, so I am not entirely against these nominations. However, there are many nominations that I cannot really be supportive of. Most of all, Best Picture. This was not only not one of the best eight films of the year, but not one of the best 80 films either, maybe even 800 if we count international releases there too. Fincher's nomination is a bit baffling too. He has directed many films over the course of his career that are far greater achievements and have not really received a lot of praise. Admittedly his nomination is still more understandable than Amanda Seyfried's. I even like the actress, but her turn here has nothing to it that deserves awards recognition. Her hair was kinda nice. With Gary Oldman, you could say that he deserves it more, but I am not sure either. I mean it was almost painful really how this movie felt like nothing but a vehicle to propel his awards ambitions and with the nomination, you can say again that they were tricked. One baity moment after the next, but nothing really fit as a story overall. On a more interesting note, you can say that Fincher collaborated with Reznor and Ross once again and once again they were nominated for an Oscar and even won the category for another movie. And finally, the screenplay came from Fincher's dad Jack, over 15 years after the man died and he wrote it many decades ago. So this was really a posthumous Oscar nomination as late as it gets and it is something unique to a film that does not feel unique at all otherwise.

    This movie runs for comfortably over two hours and I did feel it dragged here and there. I am generally a sucker for black-and-white films, but the outcome here could also not make me overlook the weaknesses in storytelling. Perhaps Fincher should have gone 100% with his father's script, even if it was a family affair for him, but tried to get in some structure here. Either himself or with a better screen writer like Sorkin with whom he collaborated on The Social Network for example. One key issue here for me was the constant back-and-forth honestly. This is to some extent subjective because I prefer chronological movies, but not entirely. The scenes were just really brief and then we jumped a few years forward or back again and it was just truly confusing. The ending then actually also being the chronological ending again with the Oscar win for Citizen Kane with neither Wells not Mank present was fine, but I think that it also tricked many people into forgetting all the mediocrity before that. The final words from Mank when asked about Wells were decent again. Same applies about the mouth trap reference we read on the screen, a direct quote by Mankiewicz. This felt much smarter and interesting then the organ grinder's monkey reference that they wanted to turn into a big thing here. It did not work out at all. Another issue this film had that it was just trying to make too much of an impact in terms of dramatic scenes. Take one character's (alleged) death that we find out about in a letter. Take one character's suicide that could be seen coming (with the bullets being handed to Mank. I mean come on, he was supposed to be smarter than that.) and was supposed to be an emotional highlight (in a sad way), but felt like none of that. These characters or their loved ones needed better explanation and elaboration simply to make an impact. It felt fairly clumsy and rushed in instead.

    The good moment were fairly rare. Some of the dialogue writing was okay, but often it also felt rather fake and staged in a way where you would think that these characters were not talking like that, also not many, many decades ago. One female character's remark about how another character likes Mank in the first half was still among the better references, but even there the film was as always walking the fine line between quality dialogues and forced and exaggerated dialogues. Pity. One ot (too) many weaknesses. The alcoholism idea was also treated in a strange manner with how turning Mank into a poor man's Schindler who saved an entire village of German jews all of a sudden (maybe therefore the b&w approach? Even more desperate then) justifies giving him some liquor or so? Extremely strange. In general this inclusion felt once again a desperate approach to give the film additional relevance. They really went all by the books at times here, also when they tried to fuel Oldman's Oscar ambitions with this spectacular drunk speech towards the end that has everybody leave the table. It did not feel authentic at all. I am not even sure if Oldman is to blame there or the writing, but to me it was highly over-the-top and sometimes less can be more. Also I must definitely mention the political component. Already did a bit with this being set during the times of Nazi Germany and one statement from a character about Hitler and how he will disappear quickly felt like something really scripted too. Have seen that many times before and usually better. But the key problem with politics is how they tried to have this film appeal to the masses and liberal Hollywood these days. How Mank shakes his head at conservative Repiblicans from the countryside and of course we are supposed to see how wrong they are and how right he is at the same time. And how it is an embarrassment when the Republican candidate wins this important election and how his supporter are boastful and gloating and disrespectful. It was highly embarrassing to witness honestly. Those where the moments when this film really hit rock bottom.

    Okay, I think by now you understood already that I did not like the outcome here particularly. I think the film struggled mostly during these moments when it tried to truly make an impact. Having another character say that Mank just wrote his best piece ever and how controversial he is also gave me goosebumps, but not in a positive way. The moments and scenes I liked did not happen too often. The inclusion of the Internationale was nice on one occasion on the piano, but I am biased there as well because I simply like the tune. I also enjoyed Orson Welles and it would have been great if he could have been included more often, not just on the phone early on and in the end with the direct confrontation. Maybe the actor did not look 24, but he was fine, brought nice energy to the movie and it would have been nice to see more from him, especially as with the Oscar then in the end, Citizen Kane is really at the center of this movie and it did not feel like that at all. Or also the issue of Mank wanting credit for his work could really have been the vital ingredient of it all, but instead it felt once again rushed in for the sake of it near the end and again they messed up. I do not expect the general public to rate this film as low as I did, but I still find it nice to see the 6 on the left side of the comma here. It did feel like a very pseudo important film to me and I think I only mildly enjoyed it at times because before that, I had not been to movie theaters for many months. So with my usual rhythm, I probably would have disliked it even more maybe. Difficult to say more positive things here. Lily Collins is of course a stunner, there is no denying, even if maybe the lack of color took a bit away from her beauty. But also acting-wise she was not worse than Seyfried for example, just two very different characters. But I do not mean with that that she was awards-worthy. Only that neither were. What else? Charles Dance was wasted. Monika Gossmann was an interesting inclusion here because she is from my country and is not even remotely famous here. Okay, I guess that is it then. This film only deserves to be seen for visual aspects, cinematography, sets, costumes too and maybe also for the music to some extent. But plot, performances and story in general come really short on the quality scale. The tortured genius aspect here has been done a hundred times better in other movies as well. Thumbs-down. Skip the watch this time.
  • Prismark1020 February 2021
    RKO 281 is a fine movie about the making of Citizen Kane.

    Mank is a mischievous movie about the co writer of Citizen Kane, Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman.)

    In recent years the authorship of Citizen Kane has been disputed. With some claiming that Orson Welles did not write any of it and Mankiewicz's contribution to the movie overlooked.

    Well not that overlooked. Citizen Kane only won one Oscar and that was for best screenplay. So Welles and Mankiewicz did not come away empty handed. The same cannot be said for Greg Toland for the cinematography or Robert Wise for the editing.

    The authorship dispute has been debunked decades ago by more neutral parties. It is as if some Welles haters like to ignore that Welles was more heavily involved in Citizen Kane. He did direct and star in it. He bought some innovative techniques to the movie along with his collaborators such as Toland.

    The reason why Mank is mischievous is that director David Fincher films it in the style of Citizen Kane.

    It has two timelines. One with the writing of the screenplay of Citizen Kane on the behest of Welles. The other are flashbacks. Where the sozzled embittered Mankiewicz dealt with the powerful people in the media industry and how they mixed with political figures.

    He comes into contact with the big lions roaming the jungle such as the predatory head of MGM Louis B Mayer (Arliss Howard.) Sinister press magnate William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) and renowned producer Irving Thalberg (Ferdinand Kingsley.)

    Mank is a messy film though. It is inert dull and long winded. David Fincher has taken a screenplay that his late father wrote some decades ago.

    David Fincher has decided to honour his father and gone for Oscar bait. You can tell as its filmed in black and white, hoping to follow in the footsteps of The Artist and Roma. Unfortunately the script is not very good.

    The other problem are that a few of the main actors are too old for their roles. Tom Burke who is nearly 40 is playing the baby faced Welles who was 26 when Citizen Kane was released. When I first saw Burke as Welles in this movie. I thought he stepped out of the set of F for Fake.

    Although Gary Oldman's performance has been lauded. He is a 63 year old playing someone in his 30s and early 40s. I doubt all that hard drinking aged Mankiewicz so much.
  • Citizen Kane ... if you are a movie lover you at least have heard of this movie. You may not have seen it yet, which is ok, there is time to do that, don't worry - and it makes sense to do just that, before you watch the movie. There is also a different movie that shines a light on the making of Citizen Kane - RKO 281. Also a very fine movie ... but david Fincher really outdid himself. Ok so this is not brutal or anything close to some of his other efforts ... but it is a love letter, not just to Kane and Welles ... but movies from days gone past.

    Technically you cannot fault the movie in any sense. Story wise you may have issues following this or even feel a certain degree of empathy. Gary Oldman is a powerhouse in this one and it is all about the Mank. So don't expect a lot of Welles in this. Now the movie and Fincher probably take a lot of liberties when it comes to how events unfolded.

    Performances overall are great, the rapid paced dialog and many homages to the era and Kane are there for everyone to see. Be it low angles, set ups and other stuff you may recognize or that may feel familiar from past days. There is something fresh about going way old school with this. Even sound wise.

    Fincher is a perfectionist, in case you didn't know or forgot ... this is an amazing movie. And while it is not necessary to be familiar with everything surrounding the movie Citizen Kane, having some knowledge of it and the background will help you enjoy this a lot! Maybe not as engaging as some would have wished this to be, but witty and original and fresh by way of the past ...
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Would it be inappropriate to state that this film is almost as good as "Citizen Kane"? I'm exaggerating a little bit, but I did think it was very good. The 1930's ambience in all respects is exceptionally well done - fashion, vehicles, and the preponderance of studio names and celebrities, particularly the noted directors and producers of the era. Though the story line has to do with the writing of the celebrated movie by Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), the film doesn't dwell on it so much as mention it now and again when it's brought to the screenwriter's attention that the time frame for completion is about due. There seems to be more effort expended on the understated conflict between Hollywood's embrace of capitalism and the writings of socialist Upton Sinclair and his run for California governor in 1934 against Republican Frank Merriam, both of whom are not characters in the actual picture. That context offers to remind the viewer that today's political climate is nothing new and has been a decades long battle in this country. Fans of "Citizen Kane" will know that the principal character in 'Kane' is based on businessman and newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), and multiple nods in this movie are present to remind one of Xanadu with it's menagerie of zoo animals, and the infamous 'Rosebud' sled at the conclusion of that picture. Oldman is great as Mank, even as his character comes under the influence of alcohol affecting his numerous and lengthy diatribes, while the supporting cast performs credibly to spark his talented, though scathing wit. And if you needed anything else to recommend the movie, particularly for those of us who love old time Hollywood, the format is done in glorious black and white to evoke memories of a time gone by. I don't think it's a stretch to consider that the picture will earn it's share of award nominations during this year's extended Academy season, and just might capture an award or two.
  • jboothmillard22 March 2021
    Warning: Spoilers
    Even a global pandemic like COVID-19 was not going to stop Awards Season, and when the nominations for the Academy Awards were announced, this was the film that received the most, and I was looking forward to it, directed by Oscar and Golden Globe nominated David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network, Gone Girl). Basically, in 1940, twenty-four-year-old Orson Welles (Tom Burke) is given complete creative freedom for his next project by RKO. Welles recruits scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Oscar and Golden Globe nominated Gary Oldman) for the screenplay. Herman, known to his friends as "Mank", is in Victorville, California recovering from a broken leg following a car accident. Herman dictates the script to his secretary, Rita Alexander (Lily Collins, Phil's daughter), who notices similarities between the main character and William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance). Producer John Houseman (Sam Troughton, Patrick's grandson) is concerned about Herman's dense, nonlinear screenplay, while Joseph "Joe" Mankiewicz, Herman's brother (Tom Pelphrey) worries that it may anger the Hearst, the powerful businessman, newspaper publisher, and politician. In 1930, Herman visits an MGM location where he and the female lead, Marion Davies (Oscar and Golden Globe nominated Amanda Seyfried), recognise each other. She introduces him to Hearst, her benefactor and lover, who takes a liking to Herman. In 1933, Herman and his wife Sara (Tuppence Middleton) attend the birthday party for film producer and co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios (MGM) Louis B. Mayer (Full Metal Jacket's Arliss Howard) at Hearst Castle with many Hollywood celebrities. They discuss the rise of Nazi Germany and the upcoming state governor election, in particular candidate Upton Sinclair (Bill Nye). Herman and Marion go for a walk, where they bond over discussions on politics and the film industry. In 1940, Houseman is getting impatient with Herman's lack of progress. Rita is also concerned with the timing of the writing, as well as Herman's alcoholism. Herman eventually finishes the screenplay in time. Houseman is impressed but reminds Herman that he will receive no credit for his work. In 1934, Herman and Joseph begin working at MGM under Mayer. Studio executives, including Irving Thalberg (Ferdinand Kingsley), actively work against Sinclair's electoral campaign. The studio produces propaganda films for a smear campaign, funded by Hearst, against Sinclair. Herman approaches Marion to get the films pulled but is unsuccessful as she has already left the studio for Warner Brothers. Herman and Sara later go to the Trocadero Nightclub for a party to watch the election night, where Mayer announces the winner, Frank Merriam. Herman's colleague, director Shelly Metcalf (Jamie McShane) is ridden with guilt over his role in the smear campaign, despite personally supporting Sinclair. Then, after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, Metcalf commits suicide by gunshot. In 1940, Charles Lederer (Joseph Cross) picks up the screenplay from Herman to deliver to the studio. Joe visits Herman after reading the screenplay and warns him of Hearst's reaction and how it might affect Marion. However, he does believe that it's the finest screenplay Herman has ever written. Marion also visits and tries to persuade Herman to change the screenplay but to no avail. She tells Herman she will try to stop the picture from getting made. In 1937, Herman crashes a party at Hearst Castle, where he drunkenly pitches the idea for the film that he will go on to write in 1940, offending everyone present including Hearst, Mayer, and Marion. Mayer is enraged and reveals that Herman is on Hearst's payroll and calls him a court jester. Hearst tells him an allegory about a monkey and an organ grinder and sees him out. In 1940, despite pressure from Hearst, Welles is determined to make the film, Citizen Kane, and intends to do a re-write without Herman. He visits Herman and offers him a buyout from the studio. However, renouncing the terms of his contract, Herman requests credit for the script, declaring it his greatest work. Welles is upset and tells Herman that he has supported him, before leaving angrily. Herman ultimately receives joint credit with Welles, and the two win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Citizen Kane two years later. Also starring Monika Gossmann as Fraulein Freda, Toby Leonard Moore as David O. Selznick, Jack Romano as Sid Perelman, Adam Shapiro as George S. Kaufman, John Churchill as Charles MacArthur, Jeff Harms as Ben Hecht, Derek Petropolis as Eddie Cantor, Paul Fox as Joe Von Sternberg, Tom Simmons as Doctor, Jessie Cohen as Norma Shearer Thalberg, Craig Welzbacher as Rexford Tugwell, Craig Robert Young as Charlie Chaplin, Scarlet Cummings and Grace Kennedy-Piehl as Bette Davis, Isabel Dresden as Carole Lombard, Emily Joy Lemus as Billie Dove, Joanne Thomson as Geraldine Fitzgerald, Michelle Twarowska as Joan Crawford, and Trevor Wooldridge as Darryl F. Zanuck. Oldman plays the drunken Mankiewicz struggling with the famous screenplay perfectly, Seyfried is luminous as the actress who is his close friend (the real Davies is apparently the inspiration for the name "Rosebud"), and there is marvellous support from Dance, Burke, Howard, and others as recognisable Hollywood names. It is an interesting mix of the story of what many consider to be the greatest film ever made, and a celebration of classic cinema. The film was shot in black-and-white using RED cameras, giving the picture and sound quality a feel of something you may have seen from the 1930s or 1940s, with clever back-and-forth storytelling (text onscreen is both clever and helpful), great cinematography, superb costume and makeup period detail, and a brilliantly period-authentic score. Ignoring the political subplot, it is one of those films that really captures the subject matter and makes you feel like you're watching something from the old days, a terrific biographical drama. It won the Oscars for Best Production Design, and Best Cinematography, and it was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Sound, Best Original Score for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Best Costume Design, it won the BAFTA for Best Production Design, and it was nominated for Original Score, Best Original Screenplay for Jack Fincher (David's father, posthumously), Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography, and Best Make Up & Hair, and it was nominated the Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Screenplay, and Best Original Score. Very good!
  • Though beautifully photographed and evocative of the 1930s and 1940s, I had a tough time making it through "Mank," the story of Herman J. Mankiewicz during his time writing the screenplay for Citizen Kane. That is a whole other movie and a huge controversy, so I won't go into it.

    Boring, self-conscious, inaccurate, there are a few acting kudos - Gary Oldman as Mankiewicz is remarkable. I love Lily Collins, and she doesn't disappoint here as Mank's secretary. Tom Burke makes a marvelous Welles.

    There is other good acting to be had in Mank, but there is also very self-conscious, let's pretend we're in the 1930s and '40s dialogue and acting. It all seemed very put on. That was mostly from minor characters.

    I loved the character of Marion Davies - her character is sympathetic - but I could have done without Amanda Seyfried's bad acting. Charles Dance was a fabulous Hearst.

    All in all, a big bore. However, if it inspires you to read more about Mankiewicz, the fight over the Citizen Kane screenplay, and old Hollywood, I recommend it. The governor's race between Merriman and Upton Sinclair is interesting, too - though it was just thrown into this story, possibly becaused the political discussions seemed timely.
  • There are so many characters, and they are poorly explained. I don't know who is who. They just keep taking all the time and I don't understand what is happening.
  • This features another quite impressive, powerful, performance from Gary Oldman as David Fincher uses his stylish and authentic portrayal of the borderline iconoclast Herman J. Mankiewicz to take us on a tour of Hollywood in the 1930s. It's told by way of flashback, as the bed-ridden Oldman is working on his screenplay for "Citizen Kane" and through his frequently drunken hazes we experience much of the politics, bigotry, misogyny, and pretty blatant corruption that prevailed in the upper echelons of the studio system as espoused by the likes of Louis B. Meyer (Arliss Howard); Irving Thalberg (Ferdinand Kingsley) and most especially the king of the hill - WR Hearst (Charles Dance). The monochrome photography adds much to the rich look of the film, and Jack Fincher provided the star with some wonderfully eloquent (often wittily loquacious) monologues - particularly towards the end as his battle against the booze starts to become more of an effort for him to fight and his friends begin to redefine their relationship with him. I was less impressed with the supporting cast - Dance dressed like a circus ringmaster for much of the time and Amanda Seyfried and Lily Collins struggled to make much of an impact, even though both roles are significant in the lives of Mankiewicz and Hearst respectively. It's a considered work, this - it doesn't dwell on the salaciousness of the scenarios; indeed it seems hell bent on avoiding dirtying it's hands with any of the concomitant scandal that accompanied the era, and that is quite odd. It robs the storyline of the oxygen of the underling politics and power-broking that created the ambience Mankiewicz so resented - even loathed. I saw it on the big screen about a day before Netflix rolled it out, and on balance I think a television viewing is all this needs. It's good - but not great.
  • David Fincher's Homage and Glorification of the Time-Period (1930's-early 40's).

    With the Focus on Writer Herman J. Mankiewicz and His "Citizen Kane" Screen-Play Work.

    Wrapped Around His Pre-Kane Employment in the Hollywood 1930's.

    "Mank" and His Association and Volatile Visits with Studio Moguls and William Randolph Hearst and Especially His Mistress Marion Davies.

    The Thinly Veiled Characters at the Center of "Citizen Kane" (1940).

    Fincher's Obsession and Attention to Detail,

    are Only Surpassed by the Reported "Slave-Master" Control Fincher Inflicted on His Cast and Crew,

    with Multiple Scenes Demanding Re-Takes Reaching 100 Routinely.

    Perhaps Stanley Kubrick has as Much Influence on Fincher as Orson Welles and Mank.

    His Meticulous Movie-Making MO has Rendered Rewards from Critics and Fans.

    So there is No Reason for the Auteur to Change Any Time Soon.

    The Film Arrives with Pre-Conceived Notions of Film-Geek Gravitas and Fincher makes No Apologies,

    and Takes the Audaciousness to Extreme Levels of Mimicry.

    For Example, Utilizing Microphones of the Period to Record the Sound, and Etc.

    With its First-Rate Cast and Razor-Edged Look,

    the Movie will No Doubt make Movie-Buffs do Double-Takes and Stand in Awe of the Art.

    Others, Not Prone to Wallow in the Glitz, Glamour, and Gossip of the Hollywood Dream Factory of Old,

    might Find the Film Drawn-Out, Talky, and Otherwise a "So-What?" Experience.

    A Unique Offering, Niche-Novelty Surrounding "Bigger Than Life" Power-Laden People Surrounding the Art of the Cinema.

    Fincher even Explores Politics of the Time with Multiple Concerns and a Focus on Upton Sinclair's Socialist Bid for the Governorship of California.

    For Movie-Mad Fans its Required Viewing.

    For Everyone Else with an Open-Mind...

    Worth a Watch.
  • writers_reign15 December 2020
    Warning: Spoilers
    If you know that the 's' in George S Kaufman stands for Simon chances are you'll recognise ninety, maybe even one hundred per cent of the references in Mank. If you like films about filmmaking you may not enjoy it as much as you were hoping you would. I've given this review a header Touch Of Evil and that, I feel, can be justified on several levels; the way Mank treated Hearst, in whose home he had often been a guest, the way Welles treated Mank, or ... fill in your own example.
  • grantss5 December 2020
    1940. Film studio RKO hires 24-year-old wunderkind Orson Welles under a contract that gives him full creative control of his movies. For his first film he calls in washed up alcoholic Herman J Mankiewicz to write the screenplay. That film is Citizen Kane and this is the story of how it was written.

    I was quite excited at the release of this movie. Citizen Kane is one of the greatest films of all time and the making of it deserves a movie. And here we have it, directed by the great David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network, Gone Girl, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) no less and with a good cast - Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Dance, Lily Collins. Surely a recipe for a masterpiece?

    Unfortunately, no. On the plus side, the story is reasonably interesting and the cast put in solid performances. Fincher's direction is spot-on, with the black-and-white cinematography an homage to Citizen Kane.

    However, the plot is never very engaging. The story never really finds a centre and pretty much drifts along. It's not dull but has a listlessness to it nonetheless. The flashbacks, while adding information, don't help the momentum either, resulting in a start-stop feel to the main plot and a bit of confusion at times.

    The conclusion is also a damp squib and is disparaging to one of the greatest creative forces in the history of cinema. It smacks of trying to make a controversy out of nothing.

    Overall it's okay, but nothing more.
  • evanston_dad11 December 2020
    I should have loved "Mank."

    Set in the Hollywood of the 1930s and 40s, featuring a bunch of actors playing such cinematic icons as Orson Welles, Louis B. Mayer, Irving Thalberg and the like, telling the story behind the writing of "Citizen Kane," one of the most seminal movies in film history, shot in a film noirish style reminiscent of "Kane" itself.

    So then why does the whole thing land with such a thud?

    I don't know about Gary Oldman. I thought we was a good actor. Maybe he is. But he's just so hammy in everything he does lately. Outside of Hollywood movies, has there ever been an alcoholic who walks around stumbling drunk, slurring his words, and crashing dinner parties like John Barrymore on a bender? The alcoholics I have personally known (and I've known an alarming number) never actually get drunk, and in fact try as hard as they can to hide the fact that they're even drinking a lot. But this movie is just one scene after another of Oldman acting like someone's best guess of what a really drunk person would be like.

    The film is all about how amazing the screenplay for "Citizen Kane" was, which is true, and which is why it's ironic that the screenplay of "Mank" is the worst thing about it. It tries to recreate "Kane's" fragmented chronology, but while in "Kane" that trick was enigmatic, in "Mank" it's just messy. The problem with trying to literally emulate a classic film in style is that if your film isn't really good in its own right, all you do is remind people of how much better than your own movie the classic one is.

    The attempts to point out the political and cultural parallels between America in the mid-30s and America of today feel shoe-horned into the film. They may be true, but they're telegraphed with all the subtlety of a Broadway marquee.

    There were scenes I really liked, like one where Herman Mankiewicz and Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfreid) stroll around the grounds of Randolph William Hearst's estate, the one that inspired "Citizen Kane's" Xanadu; and other scenes that I really didn't like, like the one late in the film where Mank crashes one of Hearst's dinner parties and ends with him barfing on the floor. It goes on forever and served as the tipping point for my patience with the movie.

    There's enough professionalism and craft behind "Mank" to keep it from being outright bad, and anyone who's interested in the history of Hollywood will probably want to see it, but it's almost painful to think how much better it could have and should have been given its subject matter.

    Grade: B-
  • ... that being people who are really into film history, and quite a bit of obscure film history at that.

    The film tells the tale of screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz as he labors over the screenplay for Citizen Kane in a remote desert bungalow, attended to by more people than he would like. The structure of the film is much like Kane itself - you have a story set in the present explained by a series of flashbacks. And those flashbacks explain who Mankiewicz is now and why he is writing such a hit piece on William Randolph Hearst in the first place.

    This is something I would probably want to watch a second time because there are quite a few things coming at you fast and furious. In particular, there is a scene at Hearst' San Simeon where, besides the well identified Irving Thalberg and L.B. Mayer, according to the cast list there is Norma Shearer and Charlie Chaplin in the crowd - I think he is at the piano but I'd have to watch again.

    Why do I think so many people think this is just an average film? A lot of the flashbacks have to do with the 1934 California governor's race in which the Democratic candidate is socialist author Upton Sinclair and the Republican candidate seems to be Brand X. In a year when I think most Americans have had it with listening to politics, political ads, and political bickering of all stripes, this might not be something that very many people want to watch. I wasn't familiar with this episode in political history and thus I found it interesting.

    A couple of questions the film raised - Was John Houseman of "Paper Chase" fame really such a complete nuisance that Welles and Mank just wanted to smack him with a fly swatter? Also, I'm pretty familiar with Marion Davies' filmography. There was a scene where she was about to be burned to the stake in what appeared to be a western. I have no idea what film that was supposed to be.

    I highly recommend this film, but your mileage will probably vary.
  • ferguson-63 December 2020
    Greetings again from the darkness. "Just a writer." The line made me laugh. How many times have writers not received the recognition they deserved, or were underestimated, only to have their words create a lasting impact? Hollywood often likes to portray writers as socially-awkward, loner types who rarely contribute much during conversations. Not this time. The subject is Oscar winning screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz, who was as quick with a dinner table zinger as he was writing the script to CITIZEN KANE (1941) while bedridden.

    More than 20 years in the works, this is director David Fincher's first film since GONE GIRL (2014), and it's based on a screenplay written by his late father, Jack Fincher. Dad receives sole writing credit here, though David and producer Eric Roth (Oscar winner for FORREST GUMP, 1994) admit to some polishing. It's a film seemingly designed for us film nerds, but likely entertaining and interesting enough for expanded appeal. CITIZEN KANE is often regarded as the "best" movie of all-time, though the origin of the film is much debated. We do know that struggling RKO Pictures gave 24 year old wunderkind Orson Welles free reign over his first film, and the result was something quite special.

    Director Fincher's film offers up three distinct aspects here: a look at Mankiewicz's writing process for 'Kane', some background on Mankiewicz's career, and a somewhat fictionalized dissection of 1930s Hollywood politics. Oscar winner Gary Oldman (DARKEST HOUR, 2017) stars as Herman J "Mank" Mankiewicz, an international correspondent-turned NYC cultural critic-turned playwright-turned screenwriter. Herman was the older brother of Joseph L Mankiewicz, a four time Oscar winning writer-director (ALL ABOUT EVE, 1950), and grandfather to Ben Mankiewicz, a well-known host of Turner Classic Movies. Herman was also renowned as a boozer and gambler, and in 1940 (where this movie begins), he was a bedridden mess recovering from a car accident. Herman was part of the sphere of the infamous Algonquin Round Table, and in most of this film, he talks like he's still at one of those gatherings.

    Mank is taken to a desolate ranch house in Victorville, California, along with his assistant Rita Alexander (Lily Collins), his nurse (Monika Gossman) and his handler John Houseman (Sam Troughton). Orson Welles (Tom Burke) has given Mank 60 days to finish the script, and his only guidance seems to be "write what you know", and don't drink. The result was a controversial, yet brilliant script that Welles and his crew (Oscar winning Cinematographer Gregg Toland, Editor Robert Wise, a 4-time Oscar winner) turned into a classic film that still holds up 80 years later.

    We immediately start seeing flashbacks, as noted by old style on-screen typing. Ten years prior, Mank was the Head Writer at Paramount, where his staff included Ben Hecht, George S Kaufman, and Charles Lederer ... writers whose work would later include NOTORIOUS (1946), multiple Marx Brothers movies, and GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953), respectively. Lederer was also the nephew of starlet Marion Davies (played here by Amanda Seyfried), who was the long time mistress of media mogul William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance). Are you starting to see how this wicked web all fits together? Of course, Hearst was the model for Charles Foster Kane in Welles' classic movie, while Ms. Davies was supposedly the inspiration for Kane's wife, Susan. Other key players in these flashbacks are Producer David O Selznick (Toby Moore), Irving Thalberg (Ferdinand Kingsley, son of Oscar winner Ben), MGM founder Louis B Mayer (Arliss Howard), Mank's brother Joseph (Tom Pelphrey), and Mank's wife "Poor" Sarah (Tuppence Middleton).

    Director Fincher's masterful film features a couple of standout sequences. The first involves the initial meeting between Mank and Hearst, while Marion Davies is filming a scene on the grounds of San Simeon (Xanadu in CITIZEN KANE). Rapid fire dialogue, multiple characters, and terrific editing with Mank keeping pace as Hearst overlooks the filming. Much later there is a scene following Mank and Marion as they stroll through the manicured gardens with the nearby exotic animals on display. The scene is fascinating to watch, while also reinforcing the kindred spirits of Mank and Marion - both talented, yet not quite allowed in the "club". Beyond those two sequences, we also get a quite funny segment where Mank and his Paramount writers are improvising a pitch to Selznick and director Josef von Sternberg, plus a telegram sent by Mank to Lederer that states, "Millions to be made here and your only competition is idiots" (a sentiment some believe still holds true today).

    Quite a bit of the film is focused on Hollywood politics of the 1930s, both in the studios and nationally. In particular, the 1934 Governor's race focuses on the campaign of writer and socialist Upton Sinclair (played by Bill Nye, the Science Guy), and the concerted efforts by Hearst and studio capitalists to prevent Sinclair from being elected. The symmetry and contrasts of modern day Hollywood and politics cannot be overlooked. Also made abundantly clear is the disconnect between studio heads, directors, and writers - quite the mishmash of disrespect.

    The brilliance of Fincher's movie is that it can be relished from multiple perspectives. Is Mank attempting to salvage a near-dead career or is he settling a grudge against Hearst? Did Welles intend to hold firm to Mank's contract and prevent him from receiving a screenwriting credit? And then there is the filmmaking side. Superb performances from Oldman and Seyfried highlight the terrific cast. It's filmed in black and white by cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt ("Mindhunter"), but not the razor-sharp images we are accustomed to these days, rather soft and hazy in keeping with the look of the times. The production design from Donald Graham Burt takes a couple of viewings to fully appreciate, and the music from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is spot on, as usual. Even the opening credits provide nostalgia, as does the 1942 Academy Awards ceremony, which neither Mank nor Welles attended. Netflix delivers another winner, and one likely to receive awards consideration.
  • malcolmgsw19 December 2020
    This was my first visit to the cinema for 9 months and undoubtedly my last for some months to come.So I was doubly disappointed with this film. I have recently read the excellent biography of both brothers,so this made my disappointment all the more acute. It was difficult to understand why they concentrated on the 1934 Governational contest for California rather than leaving bits and pieces for Citizen Kane.There is so much that could be said about that film,which was left out.The black and white photography is excellent and I did appreciate marking the film with the changeover cue dots.Easier to keep track of how long had elapsed.The film,regardless,is a misfire.
  • Hollywood likes to portray Hollywood, like the narcissistic city that it is, and so from time to time you get these high budget, grand cast extravaganzas that do nothing but explain their place of origin. Mank is a black and white ode to the 30's Hollywood era, all wrapped around a conspiracy theory core. You get Gary Oldman playing the cowriter of Citizen Kane, the most important and beloved film that no one really watches anymore, and the story of how the story of this film was written. It wrongly assumes that you not only have watched Citizen Kane, but you are also familiarized with its history, the importance of the little details and the big personalities of the era. And therein lies its failure to connect to the audience.

    If you ignore that and you don't give a damn about Citizen Kane, you can enjoy a fast talked snapshot of an era film, very well acted and complete with references to events and political strategies that mirror the present. You need to watch it even if only to see that fake news is not something new to 2020. It may be a little too presumptuous, a little self absorbed, but a good film nonetheless. I am sure it's better if you know what the hell it is referring to, though.
  • "You cannot capture a man's entire life in two hours. All you can hope is to leave the impression of one." Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman)

    David Fincher's Mank, about the Oscar-winning co-author of Citizen Kane, Herman Mankiewicz, is less about his entire life and more about the characters involved in the Orson Welles firmament as they in one way or another contribute to the romantic story of Kane's genesis and the world of '30's and '40's Hollywood.

    How writer Mank maneuvers in the movie jungle to produce the greatest filmscript of all time is the subject, and Mank is almost sober enough to convince us of his brilliance with words both written and verbal. Powerful people with whom he has to deal are MGM head Louis B. Mayer (Arliss Howard), newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), and producer Irving Thalberg, (Ferdinand Kingsley), to name only a few.

    Some might say too many important figures with too little screen time but enough for Mank's verbal excellence and inebriation for us to get why the controversy and brilliance.

    The most important puzzle of all is how much Mank and Welles each contributed to the Oscar-winning screenplay. Fincher's take is that Welles did little if any writing but had a contract with Mank to give Welles co-writing honors. Although actual authorship proportions seem unknowable, Fincher draws a world where, despite the intrigue, such a masterpiece could have happened.

    At several points, Fincher uses Wellesean techniques like deep focus and hollow sound to echo Citizen Kane itself. Almost distracting, the stylistic flourishes give Fincher the period feel as well as the reflection of Welles's genius.

    Trish Summerville's costumes, Erik Messerschmidt's Cinematography, and Donald Graham Burt's production design make Mank not so much an Oscar winner as a satisfying trip back in time to when Hollywood was dominated by genius, not digits. Mank should be seen by those who want to know the intricate design of Citizen Kane and the historic importance of Hollywood to cinema.
  • "Mank" is a must for any film buff or fan of old golden age Hollywood even if you liked the classic "Citizen Kane" or not this bio look at the behind the scenes life and flashback influences of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewiez(the fine and great Gary Oldman) is a must watch. Director David Fincher really did his work as his pace and style is in depth as this biopic is deep and revealing and eye opening in a raw way. The film has plenty of flashbacks as Herman looks back at how the studio system and politics and life influenced his writing which would lead him up to the "Citizen Kane" script. Plus it was revealing to see the power struggle between Herm and Welles as each didn't give in an inch over the credit for the pages.

    Cleary Herm was outspoken yet honest still he was raw and go against the grain as his life was controled by alcohol and the bottle and he was a "Camel" chain smoker. Still Mank delivered and told his story about William Hearst as we see the classic beauty Marion Davies(Amanda Seyfried) who brushed along side the newspaper giant in an intimate way. Really thru it all of the flashbacks, drama and influences the film is a fine homage to 30's Hollywood as it showed the behind the scenes trenches of how one of the greatest films ever was made while showing how a brash blunt hard living writer made it his way as the past and life influences helped him put it all on the page. Overall well done and watch as this is one historical bio picture that any historian or film buff must see.
  • "While it is undeniable that casting Oldman is roundly incongruous with the current wind of change, a slip might be completely overlooked by Fincher's wavelength, we can still grasp why he hires Oldman for the role. (trivia time, they both married and divorced the same woman, talking about the rapport of ex-husbands!) The latter is particularly fantastic in Mank's booze-influenced oratory and showmanship as a "court jester", the party pooper who finally gets his discontent toward this world off his chest, so that his conscience can be salved, but have you heard the joke of an organ grinder's monkey? It is a sad satire, suffused by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' period-specific score and Fincher's hypnotic injection of a dissimilar lifeworld, MANK is less empathetic than abstract, and Mank, the nonconformist, has his last hurrah. Alas, MANK doesn't shed any light on how he manages to secure his co-credit with the wunderkind Welles (Burke runs away with a sledgehammer Welles in short screen time)."

    read my full review on my blog: cinema omnivore, thanks
  • Mank is a movie aimed squarely at film buffs that tells the story of the writing of Citizen Kane. I am a film buff. I love Citizen Kane. I am this movie's target audience. It is bad as a movie, and worse as a movie eager to be compared with the works of Orson Welles.

    In the film, Gary Oldman plays alcoholic scriptwriter Herman Mankiewicz, who holes up in the middle of nowhere with a broken leg and the assignment to write a full script in a month. He bases the script on the life of powerful millionaire William Randolph Hearst. In flashbacks, we see Mank's dissolute life as a screenwriter, drunk, and witticism machine, as well as his friendship with Hearst's mistress, Marion Davies.

    1. Mank as a movie

    I want to take about Mank's failures as a film for film buffs and it's failures as Welles-lite, but I don't want that to get in the way of the most important point, which is that this movie is simply dull. Oldham is persuasive as Mank, but the character is like one played by Thomas Mitchell in old 40s movie; a side character whose witticisms are fun but never make you want to find out what makes him tick.

    The alcoholic writer isn't an inherently uninteresting subject, but it's also not an inherently interesting one, and the movie doesn't give us any particular reason to care about Mank. The flashbacks are sometimes interesting and sometimes not, but in neither case do they change the movie from basically being a guy in a house typing and getting blackout drunk. There is nothing within the movie that makes you curious about the characters or the situation - the only thing that kept me watching was curiosity about Citizen Kane, and if I'd never seen that movie I wouldn't have finished this one. The acting is good, and Amanda Seyfried is actually exceptionally good as Davies, but there's really not much to this at all. It doesn't pull you in at the start, and the end feels as meh as the rest of it.

    2. Mank as a film buff movie

    The best thing about Mank is the gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, which does a dead-on impression of Greg Toland's work in Citizen Kane, down to emulating specific scenes. Set and costume design are also first-rate.

    But as behind-the-scenes look into Citizen Kane the movie is a failure. One thing I wanted to know was why, if Mank was friends with Hearst and with Davies, he turned on them so savagely.

    Some say that the treatment of Davies was the thing that most harmed Kane most of all. True, Not only was it reportedly the main reason Hearst wanted to destroy the movie, but Davies, a talented light comedian pushed into inappropriate roles by her sugar daddy, was charming and well-liked (which Seyfried captures wonderfully) and threw big Hollywood parties and because of that, Hollywood would not rally around Kane as Hearst attacked it. Even Welles admitted, years later, that he had been unfair to Davies.

    So why did Mank trash her? The movie offers a simplistic answer involving Upton Sinclair that doesn't make much sense and, when I researched it, isn't remotely what happened. There is no thoughtful attempt to consider why a writer would use his friends as grist for the mill, even though other writers have successfully looked at the very subject without reducing it all to petty, self-righteous vengeance.

    The movie also falls onto the long-exploded Pauline Kael side of the who-wrote-Kane debate, suggesting Welles did pretty much nothing on the script. A little research shows scholars have conclusively refuted this (one of the top of the "most helpful" IMDB user reviews gives a good overview of this).

    The only reason I kept with this movie was for the real-life story that it couldn't bother to tell.

    3. Mank vs. Orson Welles

    By making a movie about Citizen Kane, and making it look just like Citizen Kane, director David Fincher would seem to be *daring* people to compare his work with Welles. But it falls short of Welles work in every non-superficial way.

    Welles was certainly a big fan of flashy cinematography. He could be gimmicky. But there was always intent to it. Gimmicks were always both "oh, cool!" and "look how that emphasizes the point he's making in a fresh way."

    Beyond the flash, Welles was a filmmaker who never gave you all the answers. He gave you clues. Citizen Kane is about the search for Rosebud, but once you know what it is, you still don't know Kane. It's another clue, but it's up to the viewer to decide how to sort these clues. Welles gave you jigsaw puzzles with some pieces missing and some extra pieces. It was true of Kane and pretty much everything he did through his final film, The Other Side of the Wind. Welles did not consider people explicable. They lie about their motives to others and themselves, they change from moment to moment and year to year. It is the complexity, not the cinematographic tricks, that make Welles one of history's greatest filmmakers.

    But Fincher's Mank isn't complex at all. His story arc is straightforward. He's a brilliant drunk. His motives are simplistic. He's self-destructive in a predictable fashion. Like all of us he has his good points and his bad points, moments of spite and moments of grace, but then, so does every character in a Hallmark movie.

    And the gimmicks in Mank are just gimmicks. If you know Kane's opening scene you'll recognize the falling whisky glass as a callback, but what does it say? Not a thing. Not. One. Single. Thing.

    Mank is a dull, unimaginative film that is infuriating because it has so many of the hallmarks of a good one. That makes it feel like a cheat. I regret watching it, and recommend everyone skip it.
  • Lejink11 September 2021
    It seems ironic that in trying to bolster the claim of maverick Hollywood screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz, the "Mank" of the title, to sole authorship of the screenplay of arguably the best and most famous (or infamous) movie in Hollywood history, "Citizen Kane", David Fincher's film should meet similar claims of duplicity and distortion.

    Personally, I find it hard to believe that in conceiving, directing and acting in the finished film, Welles wouldn't have contributed majorly to the screenplay, especially given the evidence of his future movies. One need look no further than his later acknowledged, uncredited input to Carol Reed's brilliant "The Third Man", the memorable "cuckoo clocks" speech. Moreover, early in this film, Welles's Mercury Productions associate, John Houseman, pointedly encourages Mankiewicz to push for even a shared writing credit which it seems he wasn't about to get at all or even expect, which of course he did receive in the end.

    Does it really matter then whether he did or didn't write the whole screenplay? To film buffs and historians, the answer is probably yes, but it does tend to over-dominate the rest of this fascinating man's chequered life. I'm fine with Fincher's attempt to at least reclaim Mankiewicz's subsequently diminished claim to the Oscar, especially as it's the only one he ever won, although the same could be said for Welles too. The thought occurred to me however whether two such rebellious anti-establishment figures as these would even care about baubles such as the Oscars, but then again I'm not in movies.

    Fincher certainly presents a beautifully realised pastiche of the era with stunning monochrome cinematography and witty dialogue, both often containing insider nods to "Kane", no doubt for avids like me. The now disputed attribution of Mankiewicz's motivation in turning against his former friend, William Randolph Hearst and by association his mistress Marion Davies, with whom Mankiewicz appeared to have a special bond, to Hearst's part in engineering the defeat of writer and socialist activist Upton Sinclair's 1934 bid for the California governorship does again seem a bit of a stretch. This especially when one learns that the depicted suicide of the director of the phony newsreel clips allegedly commissioned by Hearst which Sinclair attributed to his defeat from the jaws of victory, was itself a complete fabrication by Fincher and his writers. Which I have to say is where it gets murky for me and in fact I believe does a disservice to Mankiewicz's memory.

    Viewed as a behind-the-scenes insight into Golden Age Hollywood film-making, "Mank" is a joy and is helped in this by fine performances at its heart by Gary Oldman as Mank, even if he seems old for the part (unlike Amanda Seyfreid who by contrast seems way too young to play Davies) and Tom Pelphrey as his also gifted brother, the writer and future producer / director Joseph Mankiewicz, but in the end, when its central attempt to add a full stop to the whole "Who wrote 'Kane'" debate leaves instead, at least a semi-colon, if not a question-mark, for me, it rather undermines the point of the whole movie.
  • As pedant as it sounds, I guess any movie should be made for movie lovers... but the new Netflix sensation "Mank" goes a little further than that: it is not just for those who love movies but those who love to know about movies as well. Wasn't IMDb designed for these gold-diggers of film trivia and Oscar stats we call geeks?

    But even after 16 years of geeking on IMDb, I realized how my knowledge about one of the greatest American classics was limited. I thought "Citizen Kane" was the work of a cinema prodigy, a genius who at the age of 26 wrote, directed and starred in a film that revolutionized the art of storytelling and pushed the envelope in terms of filming techniques. IMDb informed me that Orson Welles actually co-wrote the screenplay with Herman Mankiewicz while I gathered from Wikipedia that Willam Randolph Hearst the then press-mogul and iconic tycoon pulled out all the stops to prevent the film from being released.

    I guess I was so admiring of the titanic achievement which was "Citien Kane" that I figured the second writer was some sort of assistant or just a rewriter who polished Welles' original draft. If it wasn't for David Fincher's "Mank" I would never had figured that the lion-share of prestige in the writing department had been usurped by the colossal legacy Welles forged through his long career... and I suspect I am not the only one in that case. So "Mank" does more than telling a story about how a classic was made possible, it repairs an injustice.

    And like many other films about the making of classic ("Shakespeare in Love", "Ed Wood"...) the story is told with the right self-referential angle, using all the visual delights that made Hollywood Golden Age... and I am not talking of the gorgeous black-and-white cinematography from Eric Messerschmidt which, as splendid it is, became a sort of requirement after movies like "The Artist" or "Roma" more recently. I was more impressed by the writing (which fits the film's subject) from Fincher's father Jack who died in 2003. All the interactions, the shadows of ambiguity interfering with cigars' smoking cloud give the film the flavor of the very era it underlines.

    Stylistically, even the use of scenes heading appearing on the screen as if they were written from a typewriter and with the Courier font, will satisfy the wannabe screenwriters like myself. When the first heading appeared, my immediate reaction was "Why didn't I think of that before?" That's the kind of original masterstrokes I thought only Charlie Kaufman could come up with. This is a film about screenwriting embracing the magic of screenwriting, that a bunch of squared-shaped words on a blank paper could contain the embryo of a masterpiece to transport the eyes of all these people in the dark... I don't think it'ss a bold prediction to say this might be an Oscar winner, perhaps the second of the ceremony.

    There I just dropped the O word... well this is Fincher's first film since "Gone Girl" six years ago, a director of his caliber was bound to come back with something big. And not to diminish the film's merit outside the realm of competition, but "Mank" does have the makings of an Oscar winner (besides being about one), the cinematography resurrects the charm of old movies without overstating them, the editing uses cleverly the same flash-back devices of "Citizen Kane" without overplaying them either... and acting wise, Gary Oldman ensures his third Oscar nomination as the flayed and alcoholic writer with a certain penchant for self-destruction in the name of self-esteem, a non-conformist who should have tons of enemies if the venomous wit he infused in his words weren't so delightful to hear.

    More amusing than malicious but more principled than his detractors, Mank is his worst enemy and can only count on his talent and the support of his wife Sara (Tuppence Middleton), so devoted that the epithet "poor" has been grafted on her name. This is Herman Menkiewicz, a much interesting subject for a character study and a biopic, but the film has also to offer a fine gallery a supporting characters, among them Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies, Hearst's wife, and the current frontrunner in the Best Supporting Actress category. I read many forum comments on her roles echoing the Oscar winning performance of Kim Basinger in "L.A. Confidential" but that kind of limits her appeal more than highlights it.

    To be honest, I'm always perplex when it comes to performances such as these, playing a woman of a certain period sounds like an actress' challenge but the more codes and restrictions there are,, the easier I think the acting is because the path is clearly shown and the risk of a false note is lower. Seyfried embraces the glamour of the era but doesn't fall into the easy trap of playing it like a femme fatale of a gangster's mole, she adds a nuance of sensitivity that makes the interactions with the more intellectual Mank a real treat for the eyes. Both have great chemistry but I was far more impressed by Arliss "Private Cowboy" Howard who played L.B. Mayer and had some of the best lines in the films especially in a riveting passage where he recites all the credos of the MGM company.

    Now, there's a lot of politics, Hollywood politics and politics politics but the best thing about Mank was his awareness in fine that he had written a masterpiece and that he wanted to have credit for it proved his flair of genius, including his own. The reaction of Welles (Tom Burked) inspired the climactic finale and ended their collaboration, but at least, Mankiewicz shared the film's sole Oscar win and sticked long enough in the credits to inspire a script from Fincher the father and a film from the son. Both the film and the script are posthumous victories.
  • I'm sure "Mank" will find an audience among cineastes, especially those who love movies about the movies but despite all the craft on display I doubt very much if this will set the box-office on fire, (though David Fincher aficionados might give it a go out of curiosity). Mank, (not a good title, by the way), is Herman J. Mankiewicz, co-writer with Orson Welles, of "Citizen Kane", and this movie, written by Fincher's father, Jack, some years ago, posits the idea that the screenplay of "...Kane" was written by Mankiewicz and Mankiewicz alone.

    This is a movie strong on name-dropping, (we are told who everyone is as soon as they appear), and it's definitely smart and, thanks to Erik Messerschmidt's stunning black and white cinematography, it looks incredible but it also has a strip-cartoon like quality giving it the feel of a potted history of Hollywood at a time when MGM had more stars than there were in the heavens. It is, in other words, a niche movie for a niche market.

    Mank is Gary Oldman, (excellent in an Oscar-bait performance). Welles is British actor Tom Burke, a splendid Charles Dance is William Randolph Hearst and Amanda Seyfried is an outstanding Marion Davies and there are scenes in the movie as good as anything you will see this year. It's also very good on the 'Hearst is Kane' idea and if we have to have gossipy show-biz biopics then we can't complain if they all look and sound as good as "Mank". This is the kind of film, come Oscar time, I'm sure the Academy will honour in a self-congratulatory frame of mind as if finally honouring "Citizen Kane" itself. It may not be Fincher's masterpiece but it just might be the one that will finally win him that little gold-plated man we call Oscar.
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