Blake S’s review published on Letterboxd:
I finally got around to seeing Fincher's latest. It's intoxicating, inventive and deliciously complex. One might argue that its complexity is a pit fall, but I've always said that if something tastes good, I'll chew on it.
I think that’s why that I liked this film more than most people seem to. It's filled with more 30s references and studio in-jokes, incredibly, than it is with alcoholic beverages. I don't pretend to understand all its machinations, but what did stick to me tasted like honey and prevented me from becoming frustrated with what went whizzing by.
I watched the film twice back-to-back and liked it better the second time. At first, the script seemed a little unfocused or perhaps too focused on too many things. However, its parts fit nicely together the second time around. For instance, the political subplot and the corruption of the American people works well as a macrocosm for the corruption of the soul, which Mank demonstrates aptly through drinking away his shame and regret.
So many scenes hit right to the core of the film's logos. This is a credit to the writing and dialogue. Again, this is where I find the film's complexity to be an attribute, rather than a detriment. Sure, it's self-obsessed and almost intentionally cryptic, but it's all about mannerism and depicting the 1930s Hollywood attitude in a heightened sense, by involving impossibly witty characters in a smoky, dreamlike era.
Oldman's performance is incredible, no doubt, and this is most evident in his ability to show the subtle nuances between different stages of intoxication. He has always showcased an incredible ability to control the wildness of his characters. Amanda Seyfried also stands out in a supporting cast full of stellar performances. There's a particular look of embarrassed admiration that she flashes Mank when he stands up for her at Mayer's birthday party (pay attention to her right eyebrow).
Mostly, the film is about the creation of identity; how these characters invent and lean on personas, filled with false ideals and aiding vices, until these constructed versions of themselves turn ugly and override them. The film argues that it is a conviction to authenticity and to a personal philosophy that allows for inner peace when all the smoke has cleared, and all the alcohol has been flushed away.