in ,



‘…a real treat for cinema connoisseurs, and something of a genuine triumph for Jack and David Fincher…’

Something of a must-see movie for cinema fans, the only real disappointment about David Fincher’s Mank is that, for the moment, we won’t be seeing it on the big screen. That said, there’s plenty to revel in during this biographical depiction of key moments in the life of fabled screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, played with considerable elan by Gary Oldman. The specific springboard here is the genesis of arguably the greatest film of all time, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, but Fincher notably isn’t content to go for a surface Shakespeare In Love ‘here’s where the ideas came from’ number, but also has one eye on the politics of America in 2020. That decision gives Mank a real edge, and while the scrupulous levels of detail involved in this recreation of Old Hollywood may put off casual Netflix viewers, this is one of Fincher’s most rich and thoughtful movies to date.

Part of the charm is the way that Mank mirrors aspects of Citizen Kane itself; the film’s structure similarly jumps back and forward in time in a creative manner, and captures the points of inspiration for Mankiewicz. We get to see the real-life character that inspired Kane, William Randolf Hearst (Charles Dance) and Amanda Seyfried steps up to evoke film-star Marion Davies. And Hearst’s infamous twit-wealth sends Fincher’s production design into overdrive, showing us Xanadu in its native form, with giraffes and monkeys making up part of the menagerie in which Davies finds herself trapped. Or is she as trapped as Citizen Kane’s script suggests? Part of the story revolves around how much, or how little of the original Kane script was true or not, and the answers are revealing.

Adapting a script written by his own late father, Fincher takes a hard political tack as well, looking into the fake news of the 1930’s in the form of newsreel footage, and not afraid to deal with union laws and labour issues of the Great Depression. And Herman J. Mankiewicz himself is portrayed as a resolute drunk, but also as a notable wit, and Oldman has a field day with some choice dialogue. ‘Write hard, aim low’ is advice given here, but Jack Fincher clearly aimed high with a story offering a strong personal core, but also a wide cultural and political resonance. Any film that climaxes with a speech about Don Quixote followed by a parable about an organ grinder and his monkey can’t be accused of underestimating the audience; this is high-faluting stuff, delivered on a sixpence.

As with The Irishman, some may carp at Netflix’s success being very much in terms of getting A list directors to bring them properties which would be unlikely to make it as big studio projects elsewhere. Dense, thoughtful and shot in luxurious black and white, this is a major work from Fincher, not conventionally accessible in the fashion of Se7en or Gone Girl, but entirely successful in its own terms. With a gallery of Hollywood greats as walk-ons, and an atmosphere redolent for the Golden Age of Hollywood, this is a real treat for cinema connoisseurs, and something of a genuine triumph for Jack and David Fincher.

Thanks to Netflix for advanced access to this title.


Leave a Reply
  1. Saw it yesterday. If you’re a film buff looking to geek out on bits and trivia about the making of one of the greatest films in movie history, and you also like David Fincher’s work; you’re in for a treat. This movie is currently being screened on some Cinemas here in Spain. Sadly, I don’t have one of those near me, so I had to make do with Netflix.

    • I’m hoping that when the pandemic winds down, that some of these movies get seen on the big screen, where they belong…

  2. “As with The Irishman, some may carp at Netflix’s success being very much in terms of getting A list directors to bring them properties which would be unlikely to make it as big studio projects elsewhere.”

    For me, that’s just natural selection. I loved “Mank,” and I hope Netflix is able to continue to support quality films like it. I must say, while I miss the theatergoing experience, I haven’t missed the films that would play there that much, as most of my favorite movies in the past 2 years have debuted on streaming platforms.

    • When I was talking to critics in the summer, at the Tenet press show, I was reflecting on the same; we’ve not been starved in 2020, because from Borat to Eurovision, plenty of quality, commercial films debuted on streaming. Maybe it’s just me that’s frustrated that in this time of turmoil, directors like Fincher, Cuaron and Scorsese bring their lazer focus to 50 years ago. Sure, the past is important, but such long gestated passion projects, while good, leave a gap for urgent, modern cinema. Didn’t stop me digging Mank either, but would like to think that streaming platforms might look forward rather than constantly backwards…

  3. I’m pretty pumped that Trent Reznor made the soundtrack 🤯, just now as I’m starting to watch this piece.

      • It surely is not! I’m honestly speechless about this movie. It’s up there with Sin City and The Crow for me. It’s resonated fiercely for sure . . . PSA: Don’t be a Mank!!

        !!SPOILER ALERT!!

        I’m not really understanding why, and this may be a rhetorical question that I need to myself marinate on for a while is:

        Why didn’t they want to give him credit for his work? 🤔

        • My guess is Welles, setting a standard for directors everywhere by treating writers as dispensible to the process. Writers were considered to be bought and paid for as part of the process, and Mank’s mistake was to image that Welles would be any different from every other director who feels that their merest pass on a scipt entitled them to part or even full credit. We see the writers in their room in this film, a boys club spitting out ideas for execs to turn down; it’s an odd phenomenon, but writers are one of the least celebrated, or even credited, creative forces on any film, in the 40’s, or even now..

          • That analysis makes sense to me . . . at some point there has to be an upheaval, if you get my pun. 😂

              • Yep, and as a side note – they LOVE putting upheavals in the films, with no complaints about it from me, my God wife wouldn’t agree. Almost like you can’t make a show or film without out upchucking lately . . . 😃

    • One to put the lights down for, put the phone away and enjoy the big screen experience, even on the small screen!

  4. OOOO, PS: apologies for going slightly off the Mank topic, but other thing that haunted me in CK was the death of his lst wife and son… barely a mention except in news reel in beginning and another few words about 2/3’s thru the film. Sometimes what’s not said has more weight that what is said… Jo

    • There’s no such thing as off-topic in the comments section of this blog. As noted, this film really delves into the differences between the script and reality… and as you suggest, the sins, and virtues of omission…

  5. You opened a can of worms—the fun kind with springs that made you giggle with delight when the lid’s removed. The worms have names: power, corruption, ego, longing for a childhood cut short, brilliance… The worms have offspring: RKO 281, Kael’s Raising Kane critique, an HBO documentary, Rand’s The Fountainhead…all worthy of further discussion and viewing.
    When I think of Oldman, I think of Dracula & Immortal Beloved. Elan was a perfect choice to describe his chomps and vitality! I can’t wait to see what he does with the role. When I think of Mank, Wiz of Oz, Enchanted Cottage, Horsefeathers, & Dinner at 8 comes to mind. When I hear the words Kane & Rosebud, my S. Holmes hat goes on. I still wonder if Kane was a composite of Hearst, H. Hughes, Harold McCormick… Was Rosebud really a sled, or Mank’s stolen bicycle, or the snow globe, or a women’s G spot (per G. Vidal)? Or something taken from Kane he could never buy back, replace, or recapture? Was he forever doomed when his parents basically sold him for profit? Or when Thatcher realized he was ‘raising Cain?’
    CK remains on my top 10 list, & is top B&W film. The first time I saw it, barely recognizing its film techniques: flashback, fadeouts, noir lighting, close ups, I wanted to write a book using all those techniques. In RKO 281, Wells & Mank want to create a movie after attending a party at Hearst Castle. CK is also a thriller, tragedy, romance, drama—everything but a western, perhaps because the talented, boozy Mank never worked on one?

    I’ll be watching the movie on Netflix this Friday, eager to see this newest entry somewhat mirror the original, as you mention. I look forward to seeing if this movie offers new info regarding who wrote what (RKO speculated), boy geniuses, yellow journalism, and cutthroat politics (as if we needed more). I visited San Simeon (home on enchanted hill per Hearst) and was impressed—spent 2 days there. You’ve hooked me in many ways, and especially by saying “..climaxes with a speech about Don Quixote followed by a parable about an organ grinder and his monkey…”Oooo, shades of Phantom of the Opera and Man of La Mancha, also favs!

    The message/theme of CK was used in the play RENT “How do you measure a life?” Is it in minutes, memories, how others remember us, or what we say or don’t say? Are the people that haunt us the ones that in life knew no real peace? Is that why CK endures? In RKO 281, Manx tells Wells, “All lives burn out. It’s the flame that counts.” Flame on… Virtual Jo

    • I’m going to save me response till the weekend, once all has been revealed, but your comments chime with specific details featured in the script; ten out of ten for the G-spot reference, that one gets a mention! I think you’ll enjoy this movie is all I’ll say for now…

    • And there’s my target audience right there! Dance is really good here, he makes so many bad movies, but redeems himself here big time. A big YEP!

  6. If this is a Netflix exclusive, then I’ll probably end up not ever seeing it. I enjoyed Citizen Kane but Mrs B absolutely hated it, to the point where we don’t own it. So I don’t see this having a future in our household either.

    • Yes, it’s not one for the casual viewer, but if you like Kane, then this is an interesting film and no mistake. Set it aside for a quiet night, and get Rescuers Down Under on!

      • The thing is, this isn’t something I’d ever pick up on dvd and since it’s netflix, it’ll never get on Prime.
        And honestly, have netflix exclusives gone on dvd? I was looking for the daredevil show the other day and while they had seasons 1 and 2 available, for exorbitant prices mind you,

        And I just went and relooked, and what do you know? It is now called “marvel’s daredevil” and is available for streaming on prime. Goodness, Disney really screwed that up!

        • Similarly, no sign of a Mandolorian DVD in the UK. It’s a shame that Netflix and Disney seem so keen to have so many properties people want to buy, but can’t. Streaming not the same…if it’s good, a physical copy is required IMHO…

One Ping

  1. Pingback:

Leave a Reply