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  • Justin Louallen

Mank - Written Movie Review


Tonight, I'm reviewing the Netflix biographical film, Mank, directed by David Fincher and written by his late father Jack Fincher. It stars Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Charles Dance, among others. Set in 1930s Old Hollywood, screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz also known as "Mank" is developing the screenplay for Orson Welles' future magnum opus, Citizen Kane. While he is recovering from a car accident that leaves him bedridden, he recounts his history in flashbacks with the events that lead up to it which include: his meetings with Louis B. Mayer, co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios (MGM) , his bonding with fellow actress Marion Davies (Seyfried), a political smear campaign involving propaganda films for an election, and Mank's alcoholism that plays a pivotal role.


Now here's a little backstory. I'm a huge fan of David Fincher's films including Fight Club, Se7en, Zodiac, and Gone Girl. He's always been a great director of movies I've enjoyed that put me on the edge of my seat or keep me invested with its story telling with snappy dialogue and gritty atmospheres on screen. I'll also be honest, I've never seen Citizen Kane before. I am aware of how much of a huge impact it has made with cinema and its achievements with creating new filmmaking techniques that were revolutionary at the time and the film being held as the greatest ever made. I respect its legacy and someday I will check it out. When I heard the news of Fincher directing a biopic of the behind the scenes of Citizen Kane, I was quite curious, especially since Fincher hasn't directed a film since 2014 and I always enjoy movies that are about making movies including The Disaster Artist, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and Ed Wood. After upon seeing the film, I can honestly say that I found the film to be likable in parts, but underwhelming.


Pros:


The performances including Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Dance, and Arliss Howard are all top notch. Gary Oldman has always brought his A-Game to everything I've seen him in and blends into every character he portrays and is outstanding in this, especially his delve into alcoholism that has quite a lot of energy and humorous scenes I enjoy when seeing him onscreen. I can definitely see him getting another Oscar nomination for this film with the Academy Awards coming up. The rest of the cast including Charles Dance and Arliss Howard are outstanding and definitely do a great job with portraying the powerful tycoons and Hollywood bigwigs. Howard with his manic energy and Dance with his subdued and menacing presence and banter back and forth with Oldman, especially during a party scene where Mank goes on a drunken speech of his idea of Citizen Kane to both of them. Another big stand out was Tom Burke who plays Orson Welles and this is possibly the best casting and remarkable performance I've seen since Vincent D'Onofrio in Ed Wood.


The screenplay written by Jack Fincher (may he rest in peace) definitely has snappy and witty dialogue that I smiled and laughed at while watching when it was being delivered by each cast member. The dialogue, while I enjoy it in parts, does provide a rapid rate as this is now the second film I've watched since I saw parts of The Social Network where Fincher has the dialogue run in a fast speed way that plays out like the movie is on fast forward which does result in some of my cons later on that I'll get to.


The other biggest praise I have is the technical side. The cinematography, the production design, the score (once again by Fincher's regular go-to duo, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross), and structure are all very unique and mesmerizing as Fincher takes us back to the old Hollywood era of film and it definitely captures what the time period was like in those days and it was great seeing what the film industry was in that era. Although I haven't watched Citizen Kane, I have read up about it and have seen the comparisons made especially how the structure in Mank is non-linear where it flashes back and forth between the past and present time period of a man's life and I found it quite fascinating.


The story I'm hit and miss with. There are ingredients that I admired with how it plays out where Mank is essentially pointing out all the problems with the propaganda being done in film that is alluded to how some movies are in current times and there are ideas that I found could've worked more had the film went into more detail with, like Mank's interaction and later rivalry with Welles that felt very underwhelming and could've went way more into detail with how hard he tried to get credit for his screenplay since he co-wrote it with Welles.


Cons:


As much as I admired Fincher's direction with the film, unfortunately, I found the story to be not quite investing. The film contains a lot of references to the old Hollywood era and events that took place that I'm not entirely familiar with and while I can get if I fully watched Citizen Kane, I could definitely see more of the passion behind what Fincher established, but as a biopic and film on its own, it doesn't explain much about the events that unfold as its basically meant to already know it beforehand to understand who these characters were in real life and the politics that it involves. In addition, I found the dialogue to go over my head quite a bit at times because it would run so fast with what the characters were saying or I wasn't completely invested due to it being dragged on and plodding or just take about politics and other references that are not as interesting where the story unfolds. While I was not necessarily bored, I just didn't fully care what was happening on screen with the characters.


Also, I felt that while the alcoholism does play a crucial role in Mank's journey, I felt like they didn't really dive into much of it that was interesting besides the scene toward the climax where he's at the party and he explains his pitch of the movie. I think it would've been more interesting had they went through more of a psychological approach where he starts hallucinating and show more of his inner demons or the lengths he goes through to get credit for the movie.


I also was underwhelmed of Welles and his interaction with Mank because it felt like there was more of a emotional and meaningful purpose of their rivalry because it gets glossed over toward the end of it when the film eventually gets made and it would've definitely had an impact on where it went with Mank trying to get credit for the screenplay, but it's only revealed with text in the end of it of what happens.


Overall: While I find the film to be likable in parts, I did feel like it was definitely not one of Fincher's best and it's not his worst either, but maybe in the future he'll go back to his gritty drama and thriller films again.


Final Grade:



What did you think of Mank? Let me know in the comments below, stay safe and I'll see you on my next review.

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