PLATFORM: NETFLIX | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Ask any Film Studies student what the greatest film ever made is, and they’ll likely tell you it’s Citizen Kane, if they’ve seen it or not. And while many know the story of its wunderkind director Orson Welles, or the incredible cinematography of Gregg Toland, less might know about its writer – the witty, cynical, alcoholic Herman J. Mankiewicz.
Truth be told, you don’t need to have seen Kane to appreciate Mank, although it might enrich the experience. This is a sentimental yet acerbic peek behind the scenes of 1930s and ‘40s Hollywood, as told from the perspective of Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), with a meticulous backdrop of Paramount and MGM studios and powerful players such as Louis B Meyer (Arliss Howard) and William Randolph Heart (Charles Dance). A passion project for director David Fincher, it was adapted from his late father’s screenplay and includes some beautiful little touches like cue marks in the frames. According to its stars, Fincher demanded 50-200 takes of many key scenes. If this is what Mindhunter ended for, it may as well be perfectly executed.
Oldman excels as the disenchanted writer, hired by Welles (Tom Burke) to ghost-write the script for Citizen Kane so long as he foregoes credit. Initially unable to complete anything as he recovers from a broken leg and adapts to Welles’s intense demands, he confides in, and alienates, friends and colleagues in the industry including actress Marion Davies (perfectly played by Amanda Seyfried), his secretary Rita (Lily Collins) and his wife Sara (Tuppence Middleton).
Influenced by politics – both nationally and within Hollywood, he writes a script openly mocking Hearst, the most powerful man in the country at the time and friend to many of his colleagues and benefactors, setting off a tense chain of events affecting everyone involved.
Mank is not quite the ‘film of the year’ as many touted it, but does faithfully follow in the footsteps of Kane, happily basking in its shadow as well as offering an entertaining, immersive and gloriously dialogue-heavy insight into its writer and the political landscape and Hollywood system influencing it.