Netflix seems to be the place to watch every noteworthy movie at the moment, so meet Mank everybody. Some have noted it as this year’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, maybe because it’s set in old time Tinsel-town although I have never seen a David Fincher movie that I would consider fun. They’re normally pretty downer movies about an imperfect protagonist going through some rough parts in their life while also feeling pretty detached from everyone else. That’s one of the reasons why I love his films.
Mank is about the late career of Herman J. Mankiewicz, a screenwriter who doesn’t seem to fit with the current agenda of mid World War II Hollywood, which has become more political while pushing the weak and poor over to please their wealthy desires. Mank was on the way out, until he broke his leg in a car accident and is confronted by Orson Welles. Welles gives Mank the opportunity to write the greatest screenplay he will ever write because this time there is nothing to hold him back, there is no creative limit, Mank can write whatever he so pleases and that’s how one of the most famous movies ever made, Citizen Kane, came to be.
I know Mank isn’t going to be for everyone, because before seeing it on Netflix, I’d already seen it two weeks prior at the cinema, then a month before that I watched Citizen Kane for the first time. I had a very mixed response as basically the whole movie is Mank lazing around, coming up with a screenplay while also talking to people who come to see him about what he’s writing. Flashbacks are cut in between the main story as we see how Mank knows this person or learned about this place or event and how this will be implemented into his screenplay. I also noted in my Letterboxd review, that the movie doesn’t hold your hand, it doesn’t even name drop the words ‘Citizen Kane’ until the end of the movie. I’m sure you could still enjoy this movie without knowing anything about Citizen Kane, but you will be severely disadvantaged as to someone who has seen it. The more you know about the history surrounding this movie, the better you’re going to do when needing to pass the Mank pop quiz that’s on tomorrow. Mank is a slow non-linear dialogue heavy movie, it requires patience and perseverance which I applied on my second viewing and I enjoyed the movie much better because of that.
Mank is a love letter to Citizen Kane and other films of the era. The most obvious factor is it’s all filmed in black and white, but also the little details like the long opening credits, the usage of the dramatic fade to black at the end of each scene and the score and sound design also paying homage to the era. Every frame is filled with this type of attentive atmosphere, which is another thing that David Fincher always nails. I say it helps if you have seen Citizen Kane because Mank’s story is very much structured like Charles Foster Kane’s. His memories are very fragmented, which Mank himself also says at one point. Mank’s story is a lot less straightforward compared to Kane’s, as its not very clear where these flashbacks are even building towards, until much closer to the end. Out of Fincher’s main characters I found Mank the least interesting as he sounds like a droning old man who’s sure has some to wit him, but can also just so easily put you to sleep. However the film does a good job at making Mank a fully realised person, with flaws and a dash of sympathy.
This is the first 2020 movie I have seen that I bet will be up for some Oscars. (Although I hear rumours that Borat is also an Oscar contender!!) It’s got Original Screenplay and Director in the bag. The movie has a great cast but the noms are going to Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried who were the big standouts. Hopefully also Lily Collins who played Mank’s secretary, because she doesn’t mess around! It’s probably got Best Picture in its grasp too, mainly due to its material, but we’ll wait and see.
Overall Mank is a solid well put together movie, but out of all David Fincher’s work this is definitely one of his weakest movies. Even on a second viewing, despite appreciating what the movie is trying to say, it was a real chore to get back into the groove. Mank is a hard movie to recommend as you have to be in the right mindset, while also having a bit of context of the material surrounding it to get into it. It was really close to the 5 rating that will give it the Blog Complainer approved seal, but Mank just slips into the ‘watch whenever you can’ category, so much better.
We have reached the end of another review, and now is a good time to tease a huge announcement is coming up next week, of a new exciting Christmas deal happening on The Blog Complainer. Stay tuned for that, and I’m signing out, right now.