Tuppence Middleton as Sara Mankiewicz and Gary Oldman as Herman Mankiewicz. Photograph: Netflix
Mank. It’s the 1930s and ’40s, black and white, a homage to one of the creators of what’s been called “the best movie of all-time.”
It’s a story about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who penned the script for Citizen Kane (1941), which follows the death of the millionaire newspaper tycoon, Charles Foster Kane, starred and directed by Orson Welles who also shared the credits for the script with Mankiewicz.
Mank is directed by David Fincher, a man known to most for a streak of thrilling and mysterious movies in the ’90s—from Seven to The Game and Fight Club. He may also be remembered for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), which casted Australia’s finest, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.
Fincher knows how to electrify the audience and engage them with memorable dialogue.
The foregoing are Mank’s strong points, too. In addition to a fantastic jazzy soundtrack, outstanding character play by Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) as Mank, witty and dazzling women, from Amanda Seyfried (Marion Davies) to Lily Collins (Rita Alexander) and Tuppence Middleton (Sara Mankiewicz); the whole cast from minor to major are framed to leave an impression.
Mank depicts strikingly the turning point in Hollywood when the talkies, movies with sound, began appearing in cinemas. It’s an ode to the creative minds behind the scenes. It’s a getaway from masks, hand sanitation and social distance.
While Mank and Citizen Kane share a fascination for black and white cinematography, their approach is different. Where Kane emphasizes strong shadows, wide depth of field and many times an ominous feel, Mank thrives in a silver glow away from strong contrast, silhouettes and shadowy faces.
Adding to all that, there’s Fincher’s somewhat notorious thrive of seeking perfection in every sequence. In one scene, Gary Oldman delivers a drunken speech, which took several hours to film. “There was only one point I think when Gary said, ‘David, we’ve done this scene a hundred f—ing times.’ To which he replied, ‘Yeah, I know. This is 101. Reset,” Charles Dance, who plays newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst in the film, said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
It’s fair to say Oldman’s portrayal of Mankiewicz, is at par with his heavyweight performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour (2017).
Through Oldman, Mankiewicz becomes quick-witted, inspiring, optimistic, relaxed—a heavy-drinking, but cheerful, master of his craft with somewhat complicated relationships to his peers. And Hollywood.
Time flies fast with this highly recommend talkie. But just like in Mankiewicz’s words: “You cannot capture a man’s entire life in two hours. All you can hope is to leave the impression of one.”
‘Mank’ premieres on Netfix December 4.