Citizen Kane is considered (by most cinema snobs and critics) to be the single greatest motion picture ever to be made. That of course is up for debate, but like The Disaster Artist, Citizen Kane being made is sure to be a story worthy of being told. However, Mank is not that story, despite what the trailers would have you believe. Instead, Mank tells the story of Herman Mankiewicz and his troubled years leading up to Citizen Kane. Is Mank any good? Well, yeah, duh. Of course it’s good, it’s David Fincher with Gary Oldman, what else would you expect?
Everything about Mank is so masterfully done in a way that could only be described as Old Hollywood. David Fincher returns to making movies after six years of nothing — his last film being the critically acclaimed Gone Girl. In terms of direction, Mank has a singular and breathtaking vision. Fincher pulls out all the stops to make you feel like you’re watching a very old movie from the Golden Era of Hollywood. With the black and white cinematography mixed with mono-mixed sound, composed using instruments found during the 30s and 40s, and combined with the exquisite production design and you have a film that feels as authentic as it does stylistic. David Fincher shows why he is a director and creative force to be reckoned with as every choice made here is the right one.
Gary Oldman is also… well… Gary Oldman. He’s one of the greatest actors currently working and seemlessly blends with every role he takes on. Mank is no different from any other role as he just kicks it. He has the gut, the alcoholism, and depression to make Mank a very sympathetic, if not, deposed character. He’ll get nominated and he’ll probably win as he gives one of the best performances of his career (you know what I mean if you’ve seen the dinner party scene). That’s not to say that he’s the only one giving an incredible performance. Charles Dance, Amanda Seyfried, Lilly Collins, and everyone in general really bring their A-Game here and it shows. There’s not a bad performance anywhere here and that is a very good thing. A commendable thing.
From a technical perspective, Mank is nothing short of a masterpiece. Everything from the editing to the score to the sound feels like you’re being transported right back to the 1940s. The sound is mixed using the mono style, that’s where the levels of sound are all the same. This is done so beautifully and even the music is mixed using the same method. Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor return to do the score and they really nail it dome. It’s beautiful and feels right out of an old moving picture. The production design is also so beautiful as it just oozes style that’s ripped right out of an old photograph. And the black and white cinematography — ugh, it’s just so awesome. Oh, and the editing. Every single scene starts with a logline screen header found in every screenplay ever written. Every single scene ends and starts with a fade. And there are several scenes where the editing just goes a little bit hog wild and resembles much of Citizen Kane as well as old films from that era.
Really, I know I’m just praising this movie endlessly, but it deserves it. So much time, energy, and love was put into making this and it shows so well. Honestly, this will be nominated for a lot of awards just from a technical aspect alone. But as much as I love this movie, it’s unfortunately not perfect.
There is only one downside and it’s a pretty big one. In similar vain to Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, Mank tries to tell a story of old Hollywood using real people to tell said story. Now, while the former is a fictionalized story, they both still hold true in conveying a story of Old Hollywood to a new generation of filmmakers. And while both are done masterfully, they both suffer the same problem and that’s why? Why did this story need to be told? What did I learn by watching this? And that’s where the real kicker lies.
Mank didn’t need to be made. And unfortunately, it’s not really worth rewatching. It’s a great film and it will surely be looked back on and studied for it’s technical brilliance, but why do we need to rewatch it? There’s nothing truly awe-inspiring, mind breaking, or Earth-shattering answers found here. Just a simple biopic of a screenwriter — a better Trumbo as I would put it. In the end, I just found myself enjoying what I have watched but not really seeing a reason to fully care. It’s the movie’s biggest weakness, there’s no reason why this story needed to be told other than the fact that this was a passion project.
You see, the script was written by David Fincher’s father, Jack Fincher. This was meant to be David Fincher’s next film after The Game but he could never secure studio funding as making a black and white picture was deemed too risky. His dad died before Mank got green-lit. This is a love letter to Herman, to Old Hollywood, and to David Fincher’s dad. This was made, not because a man needed it to be made but because a man wanted it to be made. A love letter to your dad, is what this film basically boils down to. And that’s commendable.
So what’s the verdict?
Veridct: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Mank is a truly charming movie made with the utmost care and respect that any film deserves. It’s a vanity project as much as it is a passion project and the love poured into it is more than seen in the final product. However, despite how incredible this film is, there is no real takeaway or reason to rewatch. That does not make it a bad film though, and don’t twist my words. I do love this movie, I really do. I’m glad I watched it, and I’m glad to see that David Fincher got it made.
And I will say this, despite the fact that there was no real takeaway from Mank, it did do one thing incredibly well — it showed us how hard it is to be a writer in Hollywood. Anyone who’s ever been there know how hard it is to get recognition as well as getting respect. So to writers everywhere, I simply say, write on and continue it.