Cinema Review: Mank | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, May 30th, 2024  


Studio: Netflix
Directed by David Fincher

Dec 03, 2020 Web Exclusive
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Mank is the ultimate ode to both classic Hollywood and the filmmaking process. The David Fincher-directed film, based on a script written by his late father, Jack Fincher, centers around the life of the famed screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman). The film’s main plot line follows Mankiewicz in 1940 as he pens the script for Citizen Kane, the famed Orson Welles film that eventually becomes the crown jewel of cinema. As Mankiewicz drinks his way through writing the script, the film jumps back to various times in the preceding decade. It shows Mankiewicz interacting with Hollywood legends such as actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), and M.G.M Pictures co-founder Louis B. Mayer (Arliss Howard) among many others. Mankiewicz slowly drives himself towards business exile due to his progressive political beliefs.

While the plot line of Mankiewicz writing the script is interesting, Mank is most effective through the flashback scenes documenting his experiences in the 1930s. These scenes primarily center around Mankiewicz’s perceptions of the gubernatorial election in 1934, and his support for the Democratic and socialist candidate, Upton Sinclair, which is what leads to a rift between Mankiewicz and his various Hollywood associates. This is a fascinating political commentary weaved throughout the entire film. Through recounts of Hollywood’s history, ideas like media manipulation, business’ interference with politics, and the influence of political discourse are explored in ways that indicate not much has changed 80 years later.

Mank is a film that requires patience. Fincher moves through the story with precision and grace, keeping things rolling at a slow speed in order to not leave any aspects of the history behind. Although Mank does contain certain unnecessary scenes, and parts of the film can be somewhat sluggish, it is still incredibly hard to look away from. Whether viewers are cinema history buffs, or novices looking to learn more about the history of Citizen Kane and Hollywood, Fincher’s film is one that gives its audience a lot of information to take in and process, and as a result, a lot to enjoy.

True to the decade it is set in, Mank has the look and feel of a film from the 1940s. Shot entirely in black-and-white, it includes sound editing so precise, even the soundtrack sounds like it was ripped straight out of a classic Hollywood film. Fincher’s goal, which he makes clear right from the opening credits, is to create a film that doubles as a historical artifact, not only evaluating a moment of history but also being a part of it. Through its grand budget and strong technical aspects, this goal is achieved.

While Fincher’s skilled direction and his father’s complex script are part of what make Mank so memorable, the performances are what truly sell the film. In the film’s lead role, Oldman shines through in a heartfelt, emotional performance that perfectly documents the various dimensions of Mankiewicz explored through Mank. While not in the film as often, actors Amanda Seyfried and Lily Collins do a fantastic job in their respective roles, marking career-bests for both of them. While those three performances are standouts, Mank is never really focused on highlighting individual performances. Instead, its real value lies in the chemistry between the entire cast, and the ability for each actor to replicate the charisma and style that their characters would have had.

Mank may not be David Fincher’s best, but it marks yet another win for the director, and another win for Netflix’s growing prestige film catalog. Through complex dialogue, wonderful visuals, and unforgettable performances, Mank is unlike any other film watching experience this year.


Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10


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