Mank premiered on 4th December 2020 on Netflix. Directed by David Fincher, the screenwriter of the American biographical drama film is Late. Jack Fincher. The 131-minute-long film stars Gary Oldman in the title role alongside Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tom Pelphrey, Sam Troughton, Ferdinand Kingsley, Tuppence Middleton, Tom Burke, Joseph Cross, Jamie McShane, Toby Leonard Moore, Monika Gossmann, and Charles Dance.
Herman J. Mankiewicz aka Mank – The Screenwriter
If there’s one film that Hollywood regards as the greatest of all time, it is probably the 1941 film Citizen Kane where Mank serves as a co-author or, if we go with the popular notion, he was the sole screenwriter of the film but the credit was shared with Orson Welles for various reasons! Produced in black and white method-style in an Old Hollywood era and aesthetic styling, Mank revolves around a phase in his life where he struggles, stumbles, and writes something as brilliant as Citizen Kane.
While the film is around Mank, it does not primarily focus on his addiction, gambling habits, or his fight for his screen rights but rather focuses on the crisis he faces in this process, about which I’ll elaborate in the latter part of this review.
Mankiewicz himself says that it’s impossible to capture the entirety of a person in 2-hours. All you can do is present an impression of his life. And that is precisely what happens here flawlessly with Gary Oldman playing Herman J. Mankiewicz. The film captures the life of Mankiewicz between essentially 1933 and 1940 when America was in the midst of the Depression, and therefore we see scenes of pay-cut and more with a hint of political commentary.
Mank is wonderfully intricate and purposefully shares certain similarities with Citizen Kane but these aren’t rubbed on the viewers’ faces. Both of these films move back and forth in time, moulding the storyline and character arc and like Citizen Kane, the movie gives an impression of a man rather than a biographical take summing up his entire life.
Looking closely, Mank isn’t really a film about who wrote Citizen Kane as well. Nobody says that Mankiewicz doesn’t deserve credit for writing, not even Welles. And because the movie skips right over the actual production of Citizen Kane, he’s not really interested in the film itself. Rather, Mank is a film about a man who quit his career in journalism and theatre to write for Hollywood and found it almost stupidly convenient. He develops drinking and gambling habits and makes friends in high places who love him. And here comes the crisis he faces – his disillusionment with Hollywood.
Summing up, the film is fast-paced, talky, engaging, and shot in black and white with old-fashioned blossoms. Its plot is easy enough to follow, even though the film isn’t very interested in explaining itself it is still a stellar piece of work with a cast that is perfect and brilliant.
Stream It or Skip It
STREAM IT! The first layer of this film is a decades-long debate as to who is primarily responsible for the creation of Citizen Kane. Though the film does not offer concrete answers to this question, it surely is a movie you would love to see. The film is not an attention grabber as soon as it starts, it takes time for viewers to dive in and make peace with it but once you’re in it there are no mid-way exits.
Fun Fact: According to The New York Times, in 1935, when Mankiewicz was a staff writer for MGM, the production company was notified by Joseph Goebbels, then Minister of Education and Propaganda under Adolf Hitler, that his films could not be shown in Nazi Germany unless his name was omitted from the screen credits. Why so? Because he sponsored for hundreds of German refugees and took responsibility for total strangers fleeing to America escaping Hitler. Brave.
Mank is now streaming on Netflix.
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