Mank…Herman J Mankiewicz, played by Gary Oldman, is a man whose scriptwriting work often went uncredited, but back in 1940, at the age of just 24, Orson Welles was given a contract by then-struggling RKO Pictures where he could create any film he wanted, and with any collaborator he wished. He chose the aforementioned Herman, and the film he would write would be one you may have heard of: Citizen Kane.
I love the opening as it starts with very 1940s-style movie credits. It’s in black and white anyway, but we get the same type of music and tone that you’d expect from the period, along with the look of it. It’s just slightly odd to see modern names on such a device, but it’s fun to witness. The same goes for a car driving along a road early on, and clearly the car isn’t actually a car being driven… But besides, since when did David Fincher (Alien 3) ever make a film that was ordinary?
In fact, there’s a slight echo in the dialogue, as if you’re sat in the back of a movie theatre from many moons ago. I’m not that old enough to witness such a thing, but even in the ’80s, the Davenport Theatre in Stockport was similarly huge because, as the name would suggest, it was an actual theatre for some of the time. Sadly, the place has long since gone. I used to attend the nearby school, Stockport Grammar, but some years after I left – and with the dominance of the multiplex taking hold, the place no longer would’ve attracted customers. It closed down, and the school bought the land and extended the car park. That’s progress(!)
And to add, there’s even a reel change marker late on in the film, at a point where Mank sits at a dinner table and taps a wine glass with his knife. There’s probably more of them, but I missed them.
Before long, Mank – who’s married to a woman referred to as ‘Poor Sara’ (Tuppence Middleton – The Commuter: Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams) – is bedridden following a car accident, is waited upon hand and foot by secretary-cum-nursemaid Rita Alexander (Lily Collins, Emily In Paris), and one of the best things about this film is how it shows he was a very witty man and a smooth talker. Along the way, the film gives us flashbacks for a number of occasions during the 1930s, including when he met MGM co-creator and movie mogul Louis B. Mayer (Arliss Howard).
I also enjoyed how Tom Burke does a great impression of Orson Welles, thus making up greately for his tedious Strike drama. Perhaps there’s a spin-off to be made with him?
However, for all of its 131-minute running time, while I stuck with it, it rather trundled along without massively exciting me. It’s like it had the potential to go places, but just found one of them and then got stuck in a rut for the entire journey. Such an example came when it got rather dull during the inconsequential chat at a party, as the film goes into the second act, and Mank has a yawnsome conversation with Amanda Seyfried (First Reformed), who plays Marion Davies.
If you’re unsure, give it 30 minutes, and your first impression will be the right one.
All that said, this currently has a score of 8.1/10 on IMDB, so a lot of people like it. Meanwhile, the recent Hillbilly Elegy was rated very poorly on there… while I loved it! All those people are wrong. What can I say?
Mank is on Netflix from Friday December 4th, but isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD.
Check out the trailer below:
Running time: 131 minutes
Release date: December 4th 2020
Format: 2.20:1 (Digital Intermediate (6K), Dolby Vision, HDR10, Redcode RAW (8K))
Director: David Fincher
Producers: Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth, Douglas Urbanski
Screenplay: Jack Fincher
Music: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
Herman Mankiewicz: Gary Oldman
Rita Alexander: Lily Collins
Marion Davies: Amanda Seyfried
Joseph Mankiewicz: Tom Pelphrey
Louis B. Mayer: Arliss Howard
Sara Mankiewicz: Tuppence Middleton
Fräulein Frieda: Monika Gossmann
Charles Lederer: Joseph Cross
John Houseman: Sam Troughton
David O. Selznick: Toby Leonard Moore
Orson Welles: Tom Burke
William Randolph Hearst: Charles Dance
Irving Thalberg: Ferdinand Kingsley
Shelly Metcalf: Jamie McShane
Sid Perelman: Jack Romano
George S. Kaufman: Adam Shapiro
Charles MacArthur: John Churchill
Ben Hecht: Jeff Harms
Eddie Cantor: Derek Petropolis
Joan Crawford: Michelle Twarowska (uncredited)
Young Herman Mankiewicz: Kingston Vernes (uncredited)
Darryl F. Zanuck: Trevor Wooldridge (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.