Mank ★★★★½

Fincher achieves everything he set out to in his love (hate?) letter to the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Having gone in more or less blind as a classic cinema pleb, it wasn’t until the MGM birthday that Mank’s modern day relevance became abundantly clear. While shot in black and white, its themes are anything but, presenting bold sociopolitical commentary alongside its biographical A plot.

Given its subject matter, I thought I would be remiss not to mention its screenwriter, but was surprised to find a familiar surname in Jack Fincher. I love David’s work but had never deep-dived into his personal life, so my immediate thought was perhaps a brother, envisioning parallels to Herman and Joseph’s dynamic. I was even more surprised to learn that Jack is in fact the director’s father. 

In a fine example of art imitating life, the pair’s working relationship was more akin to that of Mank and Welles, as described in Vulture. David stated “I kind of resented his anti-auteurist take. [...] You may not like the fact that you’re going to be beholden to so many different disciplines and skill sets in the making of a movie, but if you’re not acknowledging it, you’re missing the side of the barn.”

Between multiple revisions, Jack’s initial “take down” of Welles (in David’s words) was seemingly tempered, but nonetheless left us rooting for the down-and-out writer who would never again work with the cinematic giant - not unlike the father/son duo.

Jack Fincher passed away in 2003, 16 years prior to the production finally getting off the ground. I would imagine the film’s glowing reception has been bittersweet for the director, as this success would no doubt be a high point in his cinephile father’s career.

A star-studded ode to the silver screen, Mank was a deeply personal undertaking - so much moreso than I realised prior to preparing this review. It’s smart, distinct and beyond deserving of the awards buzz it’s going to generate. Give Jack Fincher a posthumous Oscar.

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