Mank ★★★


I've toured Hearst Castle and even the Annenberg Beach House and was given the spiel that Marion Davies may have been Heart's mistress, but she lent him $1 million at one point. While Amanda Seyfried turns into Marion Davies, let's be honest: even though the film tries to convince us she really loved Hearst despite initially being attracted to his money, Seyfried's main challenge was proving how bad of an actress Marion Davies really was. Worse yet, none of Davies' political opinions were taken seriously, so she was forced to sit around most of the time, being eye candy for the men. While finding out a bunch of new facts, anyone remotely familiar with Citizen Kane and the general time period might feel overwhelmed with fatigue at the filmmaker trying to let us know everything that happened from the early 1930s to the early 1940s. Halfway through the film I wondered if everything that was presented was even true.

""I'm toiling with you in spirit."

Herman Mankiewicz "Mank" (Gary Oldman) is initially introduced as a brilliant writer. Orson Welles expected him to drop everything to write Citizen Kane in 90 days (which was soon cut to 60). Mank's Seconal-laced drinks seem to do more harm than good and because he worked well at night, they hired a British lady, Rita Alexander (Lily Collins) who was still used to Greenwich Mean Time.

"You made yourself court jester."

The actor who portrayed Orson Welles (Tom Burke) had the voice down to a "T", but I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to forgive hair and makeup for what they did (or didn't do) to his face. The actor playing William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) was also great; we got the impression that Hearst was drawn to Mank's personality (and later repelled by his drunken behavior). Even "Scott Fitzgerald" (mentioned in passing by Mank's brother, Joseph) would deem him all washed up. Well, Mank would show them, right?

The non-linear editing didn't really work for me as well as the Shelly Metcalf and Upton Sinclair storylines which may have set the scene, but unnecessarily bogged down the story. Straight from the movie, "The story is so scattered... one would need a roadmap." Mank even says at one point that it's not possible to capture a man's life in two hours. This film tried to capture many men's lives and it suffers for it. There is a scene where Hearst's guests dangerously downplay how much of a threat Hitler is (which ties into how people didn't think Trump was much of a threat when he was running for office in 2016). And that was it! That's all the script needed! The movie felt like all background and setup. After droning on for an eternity, the movie wraps up relatively quickly in the last 10 minutes.

Like The Social Network, we have many men shooting back forth witticisms and they are so bowled over by their cleverness, it gives off the stench of narcissism.

Mank was having so much trouble writing Citizen Kane that it got boring really quickly. Though, I love how Mank dictates "we see an old man..." Screenwriters are told never to write "we see", yet I guess it's okay if Mank does it. Mank also passes out from his alcolohism and drops the bottle which was a funny nod to what would eventually make its way into the Citizen Kane script. We also get a complete explanation of what "Rosebud" means, of course.

In addition, the black and white got old really quick. Films were black and white then, but it would have been nice to see Mank in color. I just didn't feel that David Fincher needed to have this film in black and white, even though I can imagine that for many modern filmmakers, it would be a dream to be able to do so.

Seeing Jack Fincher listed in the credits, I had no idea that "Jack" was David Fincher's late father. It's true, it could have benefited from a rewrite or just some good old fashioned tightening. But just like Zodiac, we already know that David Fincher does not know when to edit himself.

Tuppence Middleton impressively dons an American accent to play Mank's wife, Sara. Also, Arliss Howard plays Louis B. Mayer, but it seems like he was told, "Play it like you're Kevin Spacey." In any case, despite the mild flaws of the screenplay and the execution of it, it seems Gary Oldman is coming for a second Oscar. The Academy fawned over him playing Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour. Will they be as impressed with his performance as "Mank"? Stay tuned.

Mank had many more cars at the drive-in than when I went to see Ammonite, so it's clear that there's interest. And there was only one drive-out. I think people will have differing reactions to Mank. Some will praise it and think it's the best thing and that's okay. I personally felt like it had a lot of problems. While still enjoyable, David Fincher might need to be reigned in once in awhile.

Vegan alert:
-Leather shorts in a movie pitch
-Reference to Marx Brothers and hot dogs

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