The Reel Review
Mank is director David Fincher’s fictionalized portrait of Herman J. Mankiewicz, an alcoholic screenwriter who was hired as the uncredited rewriter for dozens of iconic films during Hollywood’s Golden Age in the 1930s and 40s. Written by Fincher’s late father Jack in 2003, the story is based on speculation that Mank, as he was called, singlehandedly wrote the screenplay for 1941’s Citizen Kane, which won him and Orson Welles an Oscar.
Starring Gary Oldman and shot in black and white, Mank is told via a series of flashbacks with Mank’s trademark, rapid-fire staccato dialogue – all of this in the similar style of Citizen Kane. While this makes for a cleverly constructed and stylish looking period film, much of the story – about studio moguls using their power to manipulate elections, prompting Mank’s screenplay – has a stilted, sterile feel to it – a mish-mash of pointless, sandpaper dry scenes that will appeal more to film industry historians than the typical moviegoer.
With a supporting cast that includes Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Lily Collins (Emily in Paris) and Tom Pelphrey (Ozark), the acting is solid despite being hemmed into Mank‘s purposely staid, 1930s period format. The result is a pretentious, self-indulgent film that seems more preoccupied with stroking itself as “serious art” than in creating a compelling story.
• David Fincher and Gary Oldman both share the same ex-wife, Donya Fiorentino (Fincher from 1990-1995, Oldman from 1997-2001.) Both marriages ended disastrously, with each man getting custody of the children they had with her. Fincher’s last film was 2014’s Gone Girl.
• Fincher demanded more than 100 takes of the big dinner party scene in Mank, and more than 200 takes of one scene with Amanda Seyfried.
• The Oscar presenter in the film’s finale is Ben Mankiewicz, grandson of Herman J. Mankiewicz, and a host at Turner Classic Movies.