UK Release: 04/12/2020
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Gary Oldman, Charles Dance, Lily Collins, Tom Pelphrey
David Fincher’s Mank revisits the 1930s and 40s during the Golden Age of Hollywood.
But it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Enter Herman Mankiewicz (played by Gary Oldman) – the eponymous ‘Mank’. Bedridden with a broken leg after a car accident, Mank is approached by none other than Orson Welles (Tom Burke) to write his next film.
Welles has been given complete creative freedom by RKO and in turn gives Mank the opportunity to write his greatest screenplay.
Thankfully, it’s not just 2 hours of Gary Oldman in bed with a typewriter.
Mank playfully rejects a linear, chronological narrative in much the same way as Citizen Kane. Instead, it jumps backwards into scenes from Herman Mankiewicz’s life – just like the film he would go on to write.
These flashbacks explore the circumstances and tensions which led to Mank’s script.
And it’s where we first meet William Randolph Hearst (played by Charles Dance).
It’s no secret, especially to Hollywood scholars, that Citizen Kane is said to be based on the life of Willian Randolph Hearst – a man who Mank came to loathe. Through these flashbacks we learn of the rise and fall of Herman Mankiewicz in the eyes of the studio.
And it’s played perfectly by Oldman.
The story is one of personal and political tensions, set against a Hollywood backdrop.
In that sense, Mank pierces the veil of the Golden Age of Hollywood – revealing the grubby underbelly of a system which affords the rich to exert influence over the public.
Of course, Mankiewicz isn’t without problems of his own. His raging alcoholism is depicted warts and all. And his descent into the bottom of a bottle foils him time and time again.
Despite this, Oldman walks a fine line between charisma and a troubled life.
Mankiewicz regales Hollywood stars with his quick wit and charming demeanour just as soon as he could sour them with a sarcastic put down.
Through Mankiewicz, we lay bare the troubles of putting stars and studios on a pedestal.
And through his dealings with the studios, we see a stark warning against putting your faith in those who have power.
But Mank is more than that. It’s packed full of simply wonderful performances. Charles Dance is ever brilliant as the stoick Hearst, keeping his grim-faced determination even as his patience frays.
Tom Pelphrey and Lily Collins add a touch of humanity to Mank as we explore Mankiewicz’s personal relationships, too.
This goes doubly for Collins who plays his personal assistant, Rita Alexander.
Through their interactions, we see every facet of Mank’s character – a cutting jibe here, a witty-yet-hurtful remark there are blown out of the water when he connects with her. It’s a touching relationship that really underpins the complexity of Herman Mankiewicz.
And you’ll find Mank is full of moments like these.
In terms of the film’s style, it’s masterfully directed by Fincher who captures the Hollywood aesthetic of the 30s and 40s perfectly.
Mank is a technical triumph that views the development of Citizen Kane through the lens of 130s Hollywood.
But it’s more than that – it’s also a triumph of cinema, exploring the life and times of a figure who would prove to be as controversial as Charles Foster Kane.
Mank comes to Netflix on 4 December 2020.