D: David Fincher
Netflix / Flying Studio / Panic / Blue Light (Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth & Douglas Urbanski)
US 🇺🇸 2020
W: Jack Fincher
DP: Eric Messerschmidt
Ed: Kirk Baxter
Mus: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
PD: Donald Graham Burt
Cos: Trish Summerville
Gary Oldman (Herman J. Mankiewicz), Amanda Seyfried (Marion Davies), Lily Collins (Rita Alexander), Arliss Howard (Louis B. Mayer), Tom Burke (Orson Welles), Charles Dance (William Randolph Hearst)
David Fincher’s Mank is a biographical film about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and the development of the 1941 cinema classic Citizen Kane, but it’s fair to say that this really is an esoteric film about Hollywood for Hollywoodphiles and film buffs, and won’t hold much interest for anyone else, especially if you haven’t watched Citizen Kane.
The narrative jumps between timelines, from 1940 where the bed-ridden, alcoholic screenwriter is hired as a ghostwriter for Orson Welles’ cinematic masterpiece whilst recovering from a car accident.
This is intercut with a backstory from the mid-1930’s, as Mankiewicz mingles with fellow screenwriters, studio heads, California politics and newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who became the main inspiration for his screenplay.
The performances of the entire cast are excellent, particularly from Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried (her career best), and the film looks impeccable, from the cinematography to the costume design, set to make up and visual effects, and it’s clear that David Fincher wanted to pay tribute not only to Citizen Kane, but also his father who the screenplay to this in the 1990’s, prior to his death.
However, despite how good it looks and its best intentions in being honorific, it’s at least 30 minutes too long and doesn’t really say anything new that couldn’t be gleaned from documentaries.
An exquisite piece of art, it may be, but it’s no Citizen Kane.