Mank ★★½

As proof that dreams really do come true, that passion projects can be made, and that sometimes a streaming service will give a famous director enough money to make his father's screenplay, Mank succeeds with flying colors. That may sound incredibly cynical, but I'm genuinely impressed that Fincher got this made and mostly touched by his dedication to his father's script. But as an engaging piece of cinema that has anything to offer its audience other than a tribute to a parent or a general awareness of a Citizen Kane co-screenwriter, Mank fails to deliver on the hype and expectation.

To that end, I do appreciate the awareness of Herman J. Mankiewicz. I'd never heard about the man, and Mank has me thinking about him and Orson Welles and Citizen Kane, and for that I'm grateful. I'm just having a hard time thinking about any other aspect of the film that works.

I could, and probably will, rail against every aspect of the film, but the simple problem here is that the script isn't that good. Give Fincher an Aaron Sorkin script or a popular novel and he can create something enjoyable, but Mank seems like it was written by a journalist who had never written a script before but had a talented son. This think its the wittiest thing since sliced bread, but no matter how many times the characters laugh at each other this is no His Girl Friday.

So let's rail baby. There were several moments early on when I felt real excitement, but not one was done justice. I was on board for the black and white cinematography, but once I realized it wasn't going to replicate the films of the 40s as I'd heard I lost site of it, and I don't think it ever added to the story, if anything it distracted Fincher to the point where he forgot to do anything else interested with the camera.

The score excited me, because at least that aspect of the film felt reminiscent of the golden age of Hollywood, but there were about 20 minutes left in the film when I thought to myself, does this film even have a score? Again, adding nothing to the film. And the same goes for the production design. Early on we follow a young Charley Lederer (one of the writers of His Girl Friday!) onto the Paramount Lot, and I was excited to see a representation of the old Hollywood studios, and yet again never done justice. The film is all interiors, nothing but offices and bedrooms. There just weren't any aspects of the film that impressed me, to include the acting. When the sound design is the best part of your film, you've got a problem.

I'm seeing the word "scathing" getting tossed around a bit, but this isn't scathing, it's tame. Last year's Judy took a more scathing look at Hollywood figures like LB Mayer than Mank ever dares to. I was promised a look at the fight over ownership of Citizen Kane, but this is just a movie about someone writing Citizen Kane, and that's not particularly exciting. But if it's going to be about the creation process, at least paint us a damning picture of the man that inspired Charles Foster Kane, and his use and abuse of power in America. Instead, all Fincher did by trying to be political was use Mankiewicz, unwittingly or not, as a picture of everything that is obnoxious about wealthy people advocating for socialism while indulging in high society and accepting paychecks from the very people they scorn.

Mank is all impressions and name-dropping. Instead of using history as an inspiration it leans on it like a crutch, spouting out names facts and events like an uninspired grade school report card. David Fincher should be very proud that he made his dad's movie, but that doesn't mean you have to watch it.

If you're looking for Hollywood insight, I recommend The Bad and the Beautiful! Not perfect, but at least that felt like it had a point.

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