“MANK” was directed by David Fincher and written by his late father Jack Fincher, starring Gary Oldman as the title character with Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tom Pelphrey, and Charles Dance. It’s based on the true story of Herman J. “Mank” Mankiewicz, an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter in the 1930’s & early 1940’s and his process of writing the acclaimed film, “Citizen Kane.” The movie is intercut with flashbacks of Mank’s experiences in post-Great Depression politics and his experiences with William Randolph Hearst (played by Charles Dance), the extremely wealthy founder of Hearst Communications, a media/newspaper conglomerate.
Firstly, David Fincher is one of my favorite directors of all time. I expect to see masterful films from the man who directed “Fight Club,” “Se7en,” and “The Social Network.” Frankly, I was disappointed by “MANK.” It is one of Fincher’s weakest films, if not the weakest. Fincher still did a decent job directing this film; it was clear he worked well with the actors and understood the tone & style of the film. However, it just didn’t feel like a Fincher movie.
David Fincher directed the movie because he wanted to honor his father who wrote it before passing away. However, I don’t believe he would’ve directed this movie if it wasn’t written by his father. Fincher’s films are normally psychological, cynical, and edgy, but “MANK” was a strange love letter to old Hollywood; it felt like it was made by someone else who is equally as talented.
As for Jack Fincher’s script, it was clear he put a lot of research and effort into it. He was trying to make the film’s structure similar to that of “Citizen Kane,” where the narrative and timeline are all over the place. However, this didn’t work in the movie, causing it to felt disjointed, messy, and confusing. I think the film was about 65% flashbacks, which is way too high. At most, the flashbacks should have been 55% of the movie. The script was still decent though. Even though the plot may sound boring, the strong writing for the Mank character made the movie intriguing.
Additionally, I, like many others will, prefer this film over “Citizen Kane.” This is because “Citizen Kane,” is incredibly boring, and the reason it is heralded as the greatest movie of all time doesn’t have to do with its script. It has to do with the breakthrough technology and methods used by the director, Orson Welles. Therefore, for someone like me who has seen “Citizen Kane” and disliked the script, I had a hard time not rolling my eyes when characters in “MANK” say the “Citizen Kane” script is the best ever written. Seriously, it’s said about ten times in the movie.
My favorite part of the movie is Gary Oldman’s performance. While his performance wasn’t as strong as his as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour,” he was still magnificent in “MANK”. He was so effortlessly likeable even though his character was goofy and reckless. Oldman also sold the immense intelligence of the late Herman J. Mankiewicz and the idea that he was always the smartest person in the room. I think he was in every single scene in the movie, and while other actors would buckle under that pressure, Oldman embraced it. He was chewing up the screen.
However, Oldman was way too old for the character. The real Mank was in his late 30’s and early 40’s during the time period, but Oldman is 62. The makeup for him was solid, but it was often obvious an old man was playing a middle-aged man. Amanda Seyfried was also the wrong age, except she was too young. She is in her early 30’s and she looks like she is in her 20’s, while her character, Marion Davies, was the same age as Mank at the time. Despite this, I still liked her performance and the performances of all the other actors.
“MANK” is a good movie with a great cast, a masterful performance by Gary Oldman, beautiful cinematography, but a messy script. I do recommend the film, and I know that other reviewers will give this a perfect grade just because it is a movie praising Hollywood (critics LOVE that), but I had to be honest. I hope David Fincher’s next movie will be better.
My review of “Se7en,” David Fincher’s second film: https://reelopinion.com/2020/10/10/se7en-classic-film-reviews-4/