Mank movie review: Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried in a still from David Fincher’s new Netflix film.
Mank movie review: Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried in a still from David Fincher’s new Netflix film.

Mank movie review: David Fincher demolishes Hollywood mythmaking in delicious new Netflix film

Mank movie review: David Fincher’s new Netflix film -- a movie about movies -- is satirical but sweet, weary but vengeful. Not to be missed.
By Rohan Naahar | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON DEC 11, 2020 03:50 PM IST

Mank
Director - David Fincher
Cast - Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tom Pelphrey, Sam Troughton, Tom Burke, Charles Dance

Alternately hard-nosed and dewy-eyed, Mank is the most fiendishly entertaining movie about movies since Ben Affleck’s Argo. It’s satirical but sweet, weary but vengeful — it’s unlike anything director David Fincher has ever made.

An early scene offers a disclaimer of sorts. You can’t capture a man’s life in two hours, says our protagonist, screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz. The best you can hope for is an impression. Mankiewicz, or Mank, as he is affectionately known about town, seems to always be armed with witticisms such as this. Even (and especially) when he’s drunk.

Watch the Mank trailer here

 

Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the impending Second World War, Mank is part-biopic, part-manifesto — an unconventional movie that functions not as a photograph of the writer’s life, but a painting. Like Fincher’s best film, The Social Network, it also attempts to address an argument about authorship, over an artefact of more cultural value than even Facebook.

Directed by the 24-year-old wunderkind Orson Welles, Citizen Kane is widely considered to be the greatest film of all time. It is also the subject of much controversy surrounding its screenplay. Officially, both Mankiewicz and Welles shared credit (and also the film’s only Oscar). But Mank, the movie, suggests that Mankiewicz was Citizen Kane’s sole writer. The film was a product of his disintegrating mind, an artistic fireball of his anxieties; it was his magnum opus. Not Welles’.

But those days, it was common for writers to do uncredited work on movies. Mankiewicz himself was involved in writing The Wizard of Oz, and is generally considered to be the creative force behind the film’s Kansas sequence. In Mank, the alcoholic writer collapses on a bed and predicts that Oz will sink the studio. He was wrong.

Played magnificently by Gary Oldman, Mankiewicz doesn’t come across as a man of great instinct. He seems to bag jobs almost by accident — perhaps after impressing an important studio head with his wit at a party, or by offering a shoulder of support to someone’s sister. He was a man’s man, a ladies’ man, a man about town. Disillusioned to the point of self-destruction, he finds a new purpose to life after observing Hollywood sway a gubernatorial election.

Mank is the story of the circumstances under which he wrote Citizen Kane — against a deadline and in isolation. He was bedridden, beleaguered and bummed out. Having roundly rejected the notion that Welles had anything to do with the writing of Citizen Kane, Mank is almost as unkind to the ’dog-faced prodigy’ as Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was to Bruce Lee.

But unlike Tarantino, who was involved in a similar authorship dispute with writer Roger Avary on Pulp Fiction, Fincher has never written any of his own movies. In Mank, he takes a mallet to the auteur theory -- that the director is the sole creative voice behind a film -- and in typically brash Fincher fashion, chooses to make his point by demolishing the myth of perhaps the most majestic of all Old-Hollywood directors, Orson Welles.

Tom Burke as Orson Welles in a still from David Fincher’s Mank. (NETFLIX)
Tom Burke as Orson Welles in a still from David Fincher’s Mank. (NETFLIX)

Mank, the film, reduces Welles’ presence to just a handful of scenes — most of them unfolding over terse phone calls, with actor Tom Burke’s booming voice capturing the bravado that the filmmaker was so famous for. There’s barely a moment, however, without Mankiewicz.

Working off a screenplay by his late father Jack, Fincher gives the film a non-linear structure, with the ‘present day’ scenes of Mankiewicz, sequestered at a California ranch in a race against time to turn his script in, intercut with flashbacks to significant moments in his life. There’s a breakneck energy to both portions, with Fincher making bold moves on the chessboard, jostling dozens of pieces as the focus narrows, and only the two kings remain.

His grand gimmick here is to mimic the style of an old Hollywood movie by using techniques specific to the time, such as rear-projection, matte paintings, and scratchy mono sound. Crucially though, Fincher continues to be one of the foremost crusaders for digital filmmaking — the anti-Christopher Nolan, if you will.

Even here, in a movie that positively demanded to be shot on film stock, with ancient lenses and equipment unearthed from museums, Fincher and his cinematographer, Erik Messerschmidt, have chosen to use custom-made RED cameras. He also neglects to shoot in the more period-accurate 4:3 academy ratio, which directors Steven Soderbergh and Michel Hazanavicius used for their own monochrome throwbacks, The Good German and The Artist, respectively.

Also read: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood movie review: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt shine; Quentin Tarantino shocks

Mank is a technically thrilling movie, sure to be studied by cinephiles for years. Every insert shot will be analysed, and every frame pored over. Netflix will almost certainly release multiple featurettes, offering a peek behind the curtain into Fincher’s obsessive mind. Unlike Citizen Kane, which slipped into obscurity almost immediately after its release (until it was re-evaluated years later), Mank will ‘trend’ online -- dissected on message boards and theorised about in video essays. But it’s too early to tell if it will stand the test of time.

Follow @htshowbiz for more
The author tweets @RohanNaahar

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
Justin Timberlake is reportedly trying to mend his relationship Jessica Biel.
Justin Timberlake is reportedly trying to mend his relationship Jessica Biel.

Justin Timberlake announces birth of second son with Jessica Biel, reveals name

PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 01:38 PM IST
  • Celebrity couple Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel have welcomed their second child, a year after he publicly apologised for inappropriate behaviour amid cheating rumours.
Close
Priyanka Chopra and Adarsh Gourav in The White Tiger.
Priyanka Chopra and Adarsh Gourav in The White Tiger.

Priyanka Chopra drops Divine's banging original song from White Tiger. Listen

PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 09:02 PM IST
  • Priyanka Chopra has shared Jungle Mantra, an original song from the White Tiger soundtrack, by Divine, featuring Vince Staples and Pusha T. Listen here.
Close
Ray Fisher played Cyborg in Justice League.
Ray Fisher played Cyborg in Justice League.

Ray Fisher confirms he's been removed from Flash movie, amid standoff with WB

UPDATED ON JAN 15, 2021 04:04 PM IST
  • Actor Ray Fisher has released a lengthy statement confirming his removal from the upcoming Flash movie, amid his standoff with Warner Bros.
Close
Riz Ahmed has talked about his wife for the first time.
Riz Ahmed has talked about his wife for the first time.

Riz Ahmed reveals his 'secret' wedding details along with wife's name

ANI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 03:35 PM IST
Riz Ahmed has talked about his wife for the first time, how they got married during the pandemic and more.
Close
Chris Evans played Captain America in multiple MCU movies.
Chris Evans played Captain America in multiple MCU movies.

Chris Evans denies being in talks with Marvel to return as Captain America

PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 11:16 AM IST
As per fresh reports, Chris Evans is reportedly in talks to return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Captain America. The actor, however, has denied the rumours.
Close
Armie Hammer and Elizabeth Chambers have two kids together.
Armie Hammer and Elizabeth Chambers have two kids together.

Armie Hammer breaks silence on DMs scandal, says he's quit his upcoming film

PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 09:29 PM IST
  • Actor Armie Hammer announced that he is quitting his upcoming film, amid a scandal around messages that he allegedly sent a woman.
Close
Patralekhaa reminisced about Rajkummar Rao's journey from Gurugram to New York.
Patralekhaa reminisced about Rajkummar Rao's journey from Gurugram to New York.

Patralekhaa spots The White Tiger hoarding in NYC, gives shout-out to Rajkummar

PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 07:57 PM IST
  • Patralekhaa spotted Rajkummar Rao on a hoarding of The White Tiger in New York and shared a picture on Instagram stories. She reminisced about his incredible journey, from Gurugram to New York.
Close
One Night in Miami movie review: Debutante director Regina King assembles an astonishingly excellent cast.
One Night in Miami movie review: Debutante director Regina King assembles an astonishingly excellent cast.

One Night in Miami review: Blistering film traps four Black icons in motel room

UPDATED ON JAN 14, 2021 07:51 PM IST
  • One Night in Miami movie review: Debutante director Regina King extracts terrific performances from her four leading men, in a high-concept drama about power and responsibility.
Close
Ali Fazal and Russell Brand will be seen in Kenneth Branagh's Death on the Nile together.
Ali Fazal and Russell Brand will be seen in Kenneth Branagh's Death on the Nile together.

Russell Brand praises Ali's moustache in Death on the Nile, calls him 'terrific'

PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 11:56 AM IST
Actor-singer Russell Brand was all praises for his Death on the Nile co-star Ali Fazal. He took to Twitter to say nice things about the Bollywood actor and his moustache.
Close
Bruce Willis visited a pharmacy in Los Angeles on Monday but did not wear a mask.
Bruce Willis visited a pharmacy in Los Angeles on Monday but did not wear a mask.

Bruce Willis regrets ‘error in judgment’ after refusing to wear a mask in public

PUBLISHED ON JAN 13, 2021 01:58 PM IST
  • Bruce Willis was clicked without a mask at a pharmacy in Los Angeles on Monday. He later said that it was an 'error in judgment'.
Close
Nick Jonas has given a big thumbs up to Priyanka Chopra's latest film, The White Tiger.
Nick Jonas has given a big thumbs up to Priyanka Chopra's latest film, The White Tiger.

Nick Jonas reviews Priyanka Chopra's The White Tiger, calls it 'unreal'

PUBLISHED ON JAN 13, 2021 09:43 AM IST
Singer Nick Jonas is all praise for Netflix's upcoming film, The White Tiger. The film stars Nick's wife, actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas in a supporting role.
Close
Dave Bautista in a still from Army of the Dead, Leonardo DiCaprio in a still from Don't Look Up, and Chris Hemsworth in a still from Escape from the Spiderhead.
Dave Bautista in a still from Army of the Dead, Leonardo DiCaprio in a still from Don't Look Up, and Chris Hemsworth in a still from Escape from the Spiderhead.

Netflix unveils star-studded 2021 slate, featuring DiCaprio, The Rock, Hemsworth

UPDATED ON JAN 12, 2021 08:31 PM IST
  • First footage from high-profile upcoming films starring Chris Hemsworth, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dwayne Johnson, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Adams, and others, has been revealed by Netflix.
Close
Actor Robert Downey Jr. (L) and Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios at the premiere of Avengers: Infinity War.(REUTERS)
Actor Robert Downey Jr. (L) and Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios at the premiere of Avengers: Infinity War.(REUTERS)

Kevin Feige exclusive interview: Marvel boss on India's role in MCU's future

By Rohan Naahar
UPDATED ON JAN 12, 2021 06:35 PM IST
  • In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, Marvel Studios president, Kevin Feige, spoke about India's role in the future of the MCU, and the mind-bending WandaVision, the studio's first streaming series.
Close
Neetu Chandra is set to play Jaya, a fighter in Never Back Down: Revolt.(Instagram)
Neetu Chandra is set to play Jaya, a fighter in Never Back Down: Revolt.(Instagram)

Neetu Chandra debuts in Hollywood: 'The Never Back Down role was written for me'

PUBLISHED ON JAN 12, 2021 02:41 PM IST
Neetu Chandra is all set to make her Hollywood debut with the next instalment of action franchise, Never Back Down: Revolt.
Close
Pieces of a Woman movie review: Shia LaBeouf as Sean and Vanessa Kirby as Martha, in a still from the new Netflix film, executive produced by Martin Scorsese.(Netflix)
Pieces of a Woman movie review: Shia LaBeouf as Sean and Vanessa Kirby as Martha, in a still from the new Netflix film, executive produced by Martin Scorsese.(Netflix)

Pieces of a Woman movie review: Simply brilliant, if you can get over Shia LaBeouf’s problematic presence

By Rohan Naahar | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 07:16 PM IST
Pieces of a Woman movie review: Look beyond Shia LaBeouf’s problematic presence, and the film has a lot to admire -- especially Vanessa Kirby’s astonishing central performance.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP