Mank (David Fincher, 2020, USA)

    Mank, David Fincher's first film in six years (and first for Netflix), tells the story of writer Herman Mankiewicz - perhaps best known today for his contribution to the screenplay for Orson Welles' Citizen Kane. While the scope of Mankiewicz's contribution to Citizen Kane has been subject to intense debate - not only in writing, but in other feature films - Fincher is not concerned with this. Mank is not a film about the making of Citizen Kane, but rather about Herman Mankiewicz. While Orson Welles does appear in the film, his presence is fairly limited.

    There are other figures in the film who loom much larger - most notably the media tycoon William Randolph Hearst. The film examines Mank's relationship with Hearst, and also Heart's oversized influence on California politics - particularly during the 1934 California gubernatorial election between Republican Frank Merriam and Democrat Upton Sinclair. The film spends a lot of time examining the political and Hollywood machines of the 1930s, as well as the studio heads' relationship to organized labor. Arliss Howard plays an excellent Louis B. Mayer, while other figures like Irving Thalberg loom large in the story. 

    It is hard to imagine enjoying Mank without having at least some familiarity with old Hollywood. The first hour in particular introduces so many characters, and contains so many references to old Hollywood, that it can be a bit overwhelming. While the film finds its emotional core congealing around Gary Oldman's Mank in the second half, it is not necessarily easy viewing. While the film is beautiful to look at it, and the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is incredible, it feels sometimes more like an academic experience, and lacks an emotional core necessary to sustain it two plus hours. Nevertheless, Mank is certainly worth seeking out, although it will not rank in the top Fincher films.



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