Mank Review

It has been widely said over the decades that Citizen Kane is the greatest film of all time. Rumors of its origins have been spreading around Hollywood and the country for decades. This story has been one that has been criticized because of its subject matter. If the rumors are true, then it makes sense. Mank is the story of how that film came together and the man who wrote it. 

Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) is a Hollywood screenwriter. He has been tasked by Orson Welles (Tom Burke) to write a script for him that would become Citizen Kane. Mankiewicz is a highly political man, he has his fingers in many things, many of which don’t make the studio heads very happy. He has just been hired to write a movie script, not get all involved with political subject matters. His political views aside, he’s not a bad man. His wife and others believe in him.

Citizen Kane has been widely speculated as being about William Randolf Hearst. He was a businessman and newspaper magnate. His reach spread far and wide. Mank’s political connections led him to write this film about Hearst (Charles Dance). The man was taking away the things that meant a lot to so many in Hollywood, even their livelihoods. Many men and women were being taken advantage of by being asked to give up their rights. 

David Fincher is widely considered to be one of the best directors alive today. He has directed some groundbreaking films in his forty-year career. Films like SevenFight ClubZodiacThe Social Network, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button have all garnered critical and financial success. Fincher hasn’t shied away from doing controversial or groundbreaking films in his day. Mank might be the most ambitious of them all, though. Filming in black and white and doing a film set in the 1930s wasn’t going to be an easy task. 

Black and white films are harder to film nowadays. When they are done, it is usually a treat for filmgoers. As the film is set so far back, the costumes, set production, and dialogue are the keys to its success. Eril Messerschmidt has worked with Fincher before on Gone Girl and Mindhunter. He has a unique style of his own on how to film scenes. Black and white is a different animal entirely. He had to make Mank look like it was filmed back in the 1930s, and he succeeded very nicely. The shadow and shading work was brilliant. It was like I was watching a film from back then.

Besides Gary Oldman, Mank has some great supporting turns from the women in the film. Sarah Mankiewicz (Tuppence Middleton) is a nice conscience for Mank throughout the film. Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) is an elegant figure caught up in all the political haywire. Mank grasps onto her as a friend and confidant.

Rita Alexander (Lilly Collins) has to do all the dirty work as Mank’s assistant. He is not the easiest person to deal with, especially in his condition. He’s bedridden for part of the film because of a car accident that injured him. She carries a load in scenes with Oldman.

Mank has been a film I’ve looked forward to for a while now. It checked all the boxes of things I’ve enjoyed as a film fan for decades. The problem, only a minor one, with this film is the script and dialogue. It has a feel of the period it takes place. The lengthy monologues by Mank can be hard to digest at times. Viewers might get lost in that at times, which will take away from the achievement that Fincher has created. 

Despite the script and dialogue problems, Mank is a masterpiece in many other ways. It’s an achievement on many levels. The cinematography, set production, score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and the acting is all fantastic. Seeing this film on a streaming service was fine, but it would have been nice to see it in all its glory on the big screen with Dolby sound and the proper film projector. This is a solid film all film fans should seek out. It’s just not for everybody.

5 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean BoelmanFounder/Lead Criticdisappointment media

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