Mank is a biographical drama about screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldham) and the historical background behind Mankiewicz’s writing of the screenplay for Orson Welles’ legendary film, Citizen Kane. Mank is directed by David Fincher from a screenplay written by Jack Fincher.
Presented in black and white, much like a Hollywood film of the 1930s and 1940s, Mank is at once a loving tribute and biting satire of the ‘dream factory’ that Citizen Kane rose in defiance of, a character study of the contrarian foolish genius of Mankiewicz and the people around him – allies and foes – that were deeply impacted by Citizen Kane.
When Citizen Kane was released in 1941, it was an open secret that it was based loosely on the life of billionaire media tycoon William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), whom Mankiewicz knew personally. Mankiewicz is likened to a court jester within Hearst’s inner circle, loved by his mistress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) and detested by his sycophants, like MGM co-founder Louis B. Meyer (Arliss Howard). Mankiewicz’s troubled relationships are recounted in flashback sequences that mirror those famously pioneered in Citizen Kane itself.
The performances are immaculate throughout. Gary Oldham as usual is able to inhabit his roles in uncanny fashion. One imagines there could be an Oscar nomination in this performance once more. I was particularly impressed with Howard’s portrayal of Meyer as a snivelling rat-faced protagonist that captured the essence of a capitalist tool perfectly.
The only caveat I would hold against Mank would be its relatability. Mank is an extravagant wank-fest of biblical proportions. Surely, only rabid film buffs will be able to appreciate the subtle nods to film history, not to mention the knowing winks at historical figures most Netflix viewers would be too young to recognise whatsoever.
That all said, I am glad to report that Mank certainly resonated with this film buff and if you are reading this, then I would presumed that you got your jollies watching Mank as well. Highly recommended.
Mank is streaming on Netflix.
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