Mank (2020) Poster

(2020)

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6/10
Okay but disappointing
grantss5 December 2020
1940. Film studio RKO hires 24-year-old wunderkind Orson Welles under a contract that gives him full creative control of his movies. For his first film he calls in washed up alcoholic Herman J Mankiewicz to write the screenplay. That film is Citizen Kane and this is the story of how it was written.

I was quite excited at the release of this movie. Citizen Kane is one of the greatest films of all time and the making of it deserves a movie. And here we have it, directed by the great David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network, Gone Girl, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) no less and with a good cast - Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Dance, Lily Collins. Surely a recipe for a masterpiece?

Unfortunately, no. On the plus side, the story is reasonably interesting and the cast put in solid performances. Fincher's direction is spot-on, with the black-and-white cinematography an homage to Citizen Kane.

However, the plot is never very engaging. The story never really finds a centre and pretty much drifts along. It's not dull but has a listlessness to it nonetheless. The flashbacks, while adding information, don't help the momentum either, resulting in a start-stop feel to the main plot and a bit of confusion at times.

The conclusion is also a damp squib and is disparaging to one of the greatest creative forces in the history of cinema. It smacks of trying to make a controversy out of nothing.

Overall it's okay, but nothing more.
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4/10
Mank is the movie Orson Welles would have made if he had absolutely nothing to say
cherold17 December 2020
Mank is a movie aimed squarely at film buffs that tells the story of the writing of Citizen Kane. I am a film buff. I love Citizen Kane. I am this movie's target audience. It is bad as a movie, and worse as a movie eager to be compared with the works of Orson Welles.

In the film, Gary Oldman plays alcoholic scriptwriter Herman Mankiewicz, who holes up in the middle of nowhere with a broken leg and the assignment to write a full script in a month. He bases the script on the life of powerful millionaire William Randolph Hearst. In flashbacks, we see Mank's dissolute life as a screenwriter, drunk, and witticism machine, as well as his friendship with Hearst's mistress, Marion Davies.

1. Mank as a movie

I want to take about Mank's failures as a film for film buffs and it's failures as Welles-lite, but I don't want that to get in the way of the most important point, which is that this movie is simply dull. Oldham is persuasive as Mank, but the character is like one played by Thomas Mitchell in old 40s movie; a side character whose witticisms are fun but never make you want to find out what makes him tick.

The alcoholic writer isn't an inherently uninteresting subject, but it's also not an inherently interesting one, and the movie doesn't give us any particular reason to care about Mank. The flashbacks are sometimes interesting and sometimes not, but in neither case do they change the movie from basically being a guy in a house typing and getting blackout drunk. There is nothing within the movie that makes you curious about the characters or the situation - the only thing that kept me watching was curiosity about Citizen Kane, and if I'd never seen that movie I wouldn't have finished this one. The acting is good, and Amanda Seyfried is actually exceptionally good as Davies, but there's really not much to this at all. It doesn't pull you in at the start, and the end feels as meh as the rest of it.

2. Mank as a film buff movie

The best thing about Mank is the gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, which does a dead-on impression of Greg Toland's work in Citizen Kane, down to emulating specific scenes. Set and costume design are also first-rate.

But as behind-the-scenes look into Citizen Kane the movie is a failure. One thing I wanted to know was why, if Mank was friends with Hearst and with Davies, he turned on them so savagely.

Some say that the treatment of Davies was the thing that most harmed Kane most of all. True, Not only was it reportedly the main reason Hearst wanted to destroy the movie, but Davies, a talented light comedian pushed into inappropriate roles by her sugar daddy, was charming and well-liked (which Seyfried captures wonderfully) and threw big Hollywood parties and because of that, Hollywood would not rally around Kane as Hearst attacked it. Even Welles admitted, years later, that he had been unfair to Davies.

So why did Mank trash her? The movie offers a simplistic answer involving Upton Sinclair that doesn't make much sense and, when I researched it, isn't remotely what happened. There is no thoughtful attempt to consider why a writer would use his friends as grist for the mill, even though other writers have successfully looked at the very subject without reducing it all to petty, self-righteous vengeance.

The movie also falls onto the long-exploded Pauline Kael side of the who-wrote-Kane debate, suggesting Welles did pretty much nothing on the script. A little research shows scholars have conclusively refuted this (one of the top of the "most helpful" IMDB user reviews gives a good overview of this).

The only reason I kept with this movie was for the real-life story that it couldn't bother to tell.

3. Mank vs. Orson Welles

By making a movie about Citizen Kane, and making it look just like Citizen Kane, director David Fincher would seem to be *daring* people to compare his work with Welles. But it falls short of Welles work in every non-superficial way.

Welles was certainly a big fan of flashy cinematography. He could be gimmicky. But there was always intent to it. Gimmicks were always both "oh, cool!" and "look how that emphasizes the point he's making in a fresh way."

Beyond the flash, Welles was a filmmaker who never gave you all the answers. He gave you clues. Citizen Kane is about the search for Rosebud, but once you know what it is, you still don't know Kane. It's another clue, but it's up to the viewer to decide how to sort these clues. Welles gave you jigsaw puzzles with some pieces missing and some extra pieces. It was true of Kane and pretty much everything he did through his final film, The Other Side of the Wind. Welles did not consider people explicable. They lie about their motives to others and themselves, they change from moment to moment and year to year. It is the complexity, not the cinematographic tricks, that make Welles one of history's greatest filmmakers.

But Fincher's Mank isn't complex at all. His story arc is straightforward. He's a brilliant drunk. His motives are simplistic. He's self-destructive in a predictable fashion. Like all of us he has his good points and his bad points, moments of spite and moments of grace, but then, so does every character in a Hallmark movie.

And the gimmicks in Mank are just gimmicks. If you know Kane's opening scene you'll recognize the falling whisky glass as a callback, but what does it say? Not a thing. Not. One. Single. Thing.

Mank is a dull, unimaginative film that is infuriating because it has so many of the hallmarks of a good one. That makes it feel like a cheat. I regret watching it, and recommend everyone skip it.
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7/10
A film which seems to have been for a select few....but not the hoi polloi..
planktonrules24 July 2021
"Mank" is a film that seems as if it was never intended to be seen by most of the public. And, while most film critics and the Oscars loved the movie, the average person would have doubtless left the theater (or Netflix) completely confused. After all, to really appreciate the film and follow it, you need to know who folks like Irving Thalberg, William Randolph Hearts and many of Herman Mankiewiecz's contemporaries. I do, mostly because I am a retired history teacher and old film nut...but I am also not the average person. For them, I really feel sorry, as the film bounces back and forth in time and involves all sorts of people long dead....and soon to be forgotten.*

The story is a semi-fictionalized biography of Herman Mankiewiecz and it centers on how he wrote "Citizen Kane". The problem is that the movie goes on the assumption that he pretty much completely wrote the script and based it upon his contact with Hearst and his mistress, Marion Davies. While this is true...it's partially true according to most sources. The contributions of John Houseman and, especially, Orson Welles, are almost completely ignored by the film. So, my advice is don't take the film as the gospel truth...though I do appreciate how the film also manages, at least a bit, to show that Marion Davies was NOT the talentless idiot she was shown to be in "Citizen Kane"...something that just seemed cruel from that screenplay.

Overall, I found the film fascinating and with some excellent performances. But it's also not a film that I loved...mostly because it seemed to have an agenda...one that was more important that giving the entire truth.

*This film is full of inside jokes and cleverness that completely passes over the heads of most viewers and that annoyed me a bit. For example, when talking about the author Upton Sinclair, one comment made was that someone was so dumb that they thought he wrote "Elmer Gantry"...a book, incidentally, that was written by Sinclair Lewis (though they never explained this confusion nor why it is easy to make for most people). This just seemed awfully elitist.
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6/10
Sadly overwrought and underwhelmed
secondtake16 December 2020
Mank (2020)

The movie that everyone wants to like. But why?

Oh, Gary Oldman as Mankewitz is rather terrific. And the subject matter should hold water, concerning William Randolf Hearst and that 1930s world of excess, not to mention Orson Welles and that obvious Citizen Kane connection.

But there are so many scenes where the writer is straining to make sure the audience is keeping up with things, for example giving us first names (and variations on first names) to clue us in on who is who. The strain of having to inform the audience chokes the intended authenticity. The scene early on where some screenwriters (including Ben Hecht) are chatting about screenplays and ideas is so forced it's embarrassing-especially since it's about screenwriting.

The movie has its beauty, for sure, filmed in greyish black and white that is a softened, more detailed version of classic Hollywood. Films from the time it is set, mid-1930s to 1940, are noticably "harder" in tonality, meaning deeper blacks and more overall contrast. Citizen Kane is a prime example. It's worth noting that the photography for "Mank" is generally very poised and luminous, lots of backlighting and delineated grey scales, not much like the photography in Kane.

Now you might expect the film to grow into its own vocabulary, to have a style of its own whatever the borrowings of its substance. But no, the script is stubbornly derivative and simplistic (almost as if the writers were in their 20s and just discovering Hollywood, and literature). And the reason for this is as old as the hills-the son David Fincher is adapting the screenplay of his beloved departed father, Jack Fincher. A natural mistake, but not one to put $50,000,000 on.

The plot, what little there actually is, blunders along, dull as pancakes in July. The cliches abound, the supporting cast spouts obvious quips, and the name-dropping is endless and revealing. I do love Citizen Kane, and admire Welles, and I also greatly admire many of Fincher's films on another level, so it all is a disappointment.

The saving grace is certainly Oldman, who acts his heart out, and sustains many scenes, even ones that don't offer much worth saving. True, he's a 62 year old playing the part of a man between 37 and 42, roughly, and that doesn't help. But he's committed and complex. A good job.

And the movie isn't a total wreck...but with all the hype, it really deflates and confounds. How and why, with all this talent, did it end up so underachieving? Or then again, who really cares?
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8/10
It's not a Documentary...
Xstal10 December 2020
... just as CK wasn't, so if you enjoy expending time and energy reviewing and commenting on a work of fiction as if it were moulded and forged from the past verbatim, you really need to reconsider how you approach and view the world of cinema and film - perhaps life in general! Perspective, interpretation and imagination are the keywords and, on this occasion, it helps if you have an interest or familiarity with some, not all, of the characters portrayed and the products of their toil and travails - as this will definitely impact your view on the rendering which, in my opinion, was enhanced by a spectacular performance from Gary Oldman, further elevated and reinforced by three stunning constructions from the supporting ladies and embellished with my ability to acknowledge fact from fiction in the name of entertainment. Watch a documentary or read a biography if you want to be educated!
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4/10
Sometimes the underdog is just the underdog
dierregi6 December 2020
Much as I wanted to like this film, I didn't. Even if I love B&M movies of the 40s, sharp dialogues and I watched Citizen Kane at least three times.

I liked the photography playing a tribute to Citizen Kane, with dark, cavernous, sinister settings and also the few moments when Tom Burke (as Orson Welles) was on screen, which was not often enough.

We're supposed to believe that drunkard Herman Mankiewicz, brother of the more famous and accomplished Joseph, was actually the only scriptwriter genius behind C.K. The plot twist is that Mank used to be an entertaining figure in Randolph Hearst entourage, but the relationship turned sour and Mank wrote Citizen Kane as a revenge.

Mank had a reputation as a witty man, but none of his scripts were successful and his career was second rate. However in Fincher's version, Mank takes center stage and writes the Oscar-winning script while recovering from an accident and temporarily drying out.

The story is told in innumerable flashbacks from which you gather Mank was a resentful drunk who unleashed his sarcasm on everybody and thought he was entitled to a better career. Unfortunately, he seems moved only by envy and I felt no sympathy.

Besides the occasional sparkle, since most characters in the movie are completely forgotten, it's hard to understand fully the circumstances. The only clear things are that Mank himself did not deserve a whole movie and 2/3 of this are a snooze-feast.
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3/10
Extremely boring
lbowdls12 February 2021
Full disclosure I haven't finished watching this yet, because I started about a month ago and have gone back a few times. But I'm still only about 30 minutes in because it seems like 3 hours I'm so board. It is so draggy, I usually love Hollywood stories especially set in this period, I was excited. But it's so slow moving that I don't quite understand 1.How so many people think it's great and how it earned so many award nominations and 2. Why did they bother? I'm not sure I want to bother finishing it.
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6/10
very hard to get through
blanche-27 December 2020
Though beautifully photographed and evocative of the 1930s and 1940s, I had a tough time making it through "Mank," the story of Herman J. Mankiewicz during his time writing the screenplay for Citizen Kane. That is a whole other movie and a huge controversy, so I won't go into it.

Boring, self-conscious, inaccurate, there are a few acting kudos - Gary Oldman as Mankiewicz is remarkable. I love Lily Collins, and she doesn't disappoint here as Mank's secretary. Tom Burke makes a marvelous Welles.

There is other good acting to be had in Mank, but there is also very self-conscious, let's pretend we're in the 1930s and '40s dialogue and acting. It all seemed very put on. That was mostly from minor characters.

I loved the character of Marion Davies - her character is sympathetic - but I could have done without Amanda Seyfried's bad acting. Charles Dance was a fabulous Hearst.

All in all, a big bore. However, if it inspires you to read more about Mankiewicz, the fight over the Citizen Kane screenplay, and old Hollywood, I recommend it. The governor's race between Merriman and Upton Sinclair is interesting, too - though it was just thrown into this story, possibly becaused the political discussions seemed timely.
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5/10
Boring And Incoherent
atractiveeyes5 December 2020
I was so looking forward for this film but it turns out to be really disappointing. Well, it's so beautifully artsy with amazing cinematography, many stunning shots, beautiful locations and costumes, awesome Hollywood vibes, and brilliant performances by everyone. But unfortunately all of that didn't save the movie because of its bad script. The plot is incoherent, messy, and disturbing. I really felt so confused at certain points. Mank is obviously a very well made movie but I hated it, it's just boring and uninteresting to me. What a missed opportunity!
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5/10
Disappointing Biopic
malcolmgsw19 December 2020
This was my first visit to the cinema for 9 months and undoubtedly my last for some months to come.So I was doubly disappointed with this film. I have recently read the excellent biography of both brothers,so this made my disappointment all the more acute. It was difficult to understand why they concentrated on the 1934 Governational contest for California rather than leaving bits and pieces for Citizen Kane.There is so much that could be said about that film,which was left out.The black and white photography is excellent and I did appreciate marking the film with the changeover cue dots.Easier to keep track of how long had elapsed.The film,regardless,is a misfire.
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9/10
Probably best appreciated by a specialized audience...
AlsExGal11 December 2020
... that being people who are really into film history, and quite a bit of obscure film history at that.

The film tells the tale of screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) as he labors over the screenplay for Citizen Kane in a remote desert bungalow, attended to by more people than he would like. The structure of the film is much like Kane itself - you have a story set in the present explained by a series of flashbacks. And those flashbacks explain who Mankiewicz is now and why he is writing such a hit piece on William Randolph Hearst in the first place.

This is something I would probably want to watch a second time because there are quite a few things coming at you fast and furious. In particular, there is a scene at Hearst' San Simeon where, besides the well identified Irving Thalberg and L. B. Mayer, according to the cast list there is Norma Shearer and Charlie Chaplin in the crowd - I think he is at the piano but I'd have to watch again.

Why do I think so many people think this is just an average film? A lot of the flashbacks have to do with the 1934 California governor's race in which the Democratic candidate is socialist author Upton Sinclair and the Republican candidate seems to be Brand X. In a year when I think most Americans have had it with listening to politics, political ads, and political bickering of all stripes, this might not be something that very many people want to watch. I wasn't familiar with this episode in political history and thus I found it interesting.

A couple of questions the film raised - Was John Houseman of "Paper Chase" fame really such a complete nuisance that Welles and Mank just wanted to smack him with a fly swatter? Also, I'm pretty familiar with Marion Davies' filmography. There was a scene where she was about to be burned to the stake in what appeared to be a western. I have no idea what film that was supposed to be.

I highly recommend this film, but your mileage will probably vary.
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7/10
An historically innaccurate tour de force,
ahicks-23 December 2020
Like Oliver Stone's "JFK a masterfully executed distortion of history Fine acting and cinematography, but no comparison to those of "Citizen Kane."

Fincher's villainization in MANK of Welles as a plagiarist runs contrary to the facts. To quote Robert Carringer, the expert on the matter: "A virtually complete set of script records for Citizen Kane has been pre- served in the archives of RKO General Pictures in Hollywood, and these provide almost a day-to-day record of the history of the scripting. Once this record is reconstructed and all the available pieces of evidence are matched to it, a reasonably clear picture emerges of who was responsible for what in the final script. The full evidence reveals that Welles' contribution to the Citizen Kane script was not only substantial but definitive (370)... "Herman Mankiewicz's principal contribution to the Citizen Kane script was made in the early stages at Victorville. The Victorville scripts elaborated the plot logic and laid down the overall story contours (398).... The Mankiewicz partisans would have us believe that this is the heart of the matter and that by the end of Victorville the essential part of the scripting was complete. Quite the contrary... Major revisions begin as soon as the script passes into Welles' hands, and several important lines of development can be discerned in sub- sequent phases of the scripting. One of these is the elimination of dramatically questionable material, especially of a large amount of material drawn from Hearst. Another is a fundamental alteration of the nature of many of the scenes; this may be described generally as a shift from scenes played continuously to scenes fragmented according to montage conceptions" (399). (Here, the evolution of Mankiewicz's rather humdrum scenes involving Kane and Emily into the film's concise, witty, montage is a perfect example.), Yet another is the evolution of Charles Foster Kane as a character. The principal strategy is the replaying of certain key situa tions and moments in his life over and over again as a means of testing and discovering the character (399)....":Not even the staunchest defenders of Mankiewicz would deny that Welles was principally responsible for the realization of the film. But in light of the evidence, it may be they will also have to grant him principal responsibility for the realization of the script" (400)." (See Robert L. Carringer. "The Scripts of 'Citizen Kane.'" Critical Inquiry, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1978pp. 369-400; Also cf. The Making of Citizen Kane, 985). More interpretively. Welles was preponderantly an adapter of others work, whether from Shakespeare, lesser classics or thrillers, whether for radio theater, stage theater or film. "Citizen Kane" can be viewed as Welles' adaptation of Mankiewicz's ungainly, 250-page "American," his first "script" for "Kane."
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7/10
Solid slice of early film history
bastille-852-73154721 November 2020
I'm a huge fan of both "Citizen Kane" as well as David Fincher's films, so I was extremely excited to see this. Because of how much I enjoy Fincher's films as well as how good the trailers looked, I wanted to (safely) see it on a big screen rather than wait until Netflix. Needless to say, this is a good movie, but not a great one--and it does not quite live up to the quality one would expect from a Fincher film.

The story focuses on Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman,) the screenwriter who worked--often tempestuously--with Orson Welles to write "Citizen Kane." However, the amount of time the film spends on material related to "Citizen Kane" is relatively little. Instead, the film tends to focus more on Mank's political activity, personal life, ascent into the movie business, and alcoholism throughout the 1930s. Oldman does a good job playing Mank, and is completely believable in the role. As one can expect from a Fincher film, the editing and cinematography are top-notch. The stylish, black-and-white aesthetic that feels both slightly understated (in the best way possible) and posh is beautifully complemented by a relatively steady camera and editing techniques common to films of the 1930s and 40s. The screenplay is generally well-written as well, although it doesn't feel as taut as you would expect in a Fincher picture, and the leisurely pacing is very well done.

Despite these strong qualities, "Mank" unfortunately is not quite great. The film develops Mank as a character, but he is portrayed in too static of a manner to really make for an engaging protagonist, or even one that can simply have clear ripple effects on the rest of the film's narrative and the characters around him. His characterization is not especially interesting. Fincher probably uses flashbacks a bit too much in the story, as many of the flashbacks to the early 1930s don't do too much to provide additional context to Mank as a character or the time period as a whole. Also, the supporting characters (such as the roles played by Amanda Seyfried and Lilly Collins) are not especially well-developed. As a result, the film doesn't completely work as a character study. However, it is still a generally well-acted and well-shot depiction of early film history that is worth seeing for viewers interested in the subject matter. 7/10
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3/10
Mank
Prismark1020 February 2021
RKO 281 is a fine movie about the making of Citizen Kane.

Mank is a mischievous movie about the co writer of Citizen Kane, Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman.)

In recent years the authorship of Citizen Kane has been disputed. With some claiming that Orson Welles did not write any of it and Mankiewicz's contribution to the movie overlooked.

Well not that overlooked. Citizen Kane only won one Oscar and that was for best screenplay. So Welles and Mankiewicz did not come away empty handed. The same cannot be said for Greg Toland for the cinematography or Robert Wise for the editing.

The authorship dispute has been debunked decades ago by more neutral parties. It is as if some Welles haters like to ignore that Welles was more heavily involved in Citizen Kane. He did direct and star in it. He bought some innovative techniques to the movie along with his collaborators such as Toland.

The reason why Mank is mischievous is that director David Fincher films it in the style of Citizen Kane.

It has two timelines. One with the writing of the screenplay of Citizen Kane on the behest of Welles. The other are flashbacks. Where the sozzled embittered Mankiewicz dealt with the powerful people in the media industry and how they mixed with political figures.

He comes into contact with the big lions roaming the jungle such as the predatory head of MGM Louis B Mayer (Arliss Howard.) Sinister press magnate William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) and renowned producer Irving Thalberg (Ferdinand Kingsley.)

Mank is a messy film though. It is inert dull and long winded. David Fincher has taken a screenplay that his late father wrote some decades ago.

David Fincher has decided to honour his father and gone for Oscar bait. You can tell as its filmed in black and white, hoping to follow in the footsteps of The Artist and Roma. Unfortunately the script is not very good.

The other problem are that a few of the main actors are too old for their roles. Tom Burke who is nearly 40 is playing the baby faced Welles who was 26 when Citizen Kane was released. When I first saw Burke as Welles in this movie. I thought he stepped out of the set of F for Fake.

Although Gary Oldman's performance has been lauded. He is a 63 year old playing someone in his 30s and early 40s. I doubt all that hard drinking aged Mankiewicz so much.
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I don't understand it
Gordon-1123 January 2021
There are so many characters, and they are poorly explained. I don't know who is who. They just keep taking all the time and I don't understand what is happening.
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4/10
Not one aspect of this story caught my interest
jtindahouse22 March 2021
There's nothing Hollywood loves more than itself. Every year the Oscars are riddled with mediocre films (that often go as far as taking home the trophy) simply because they are based on the subject of film-making in one way or another. There have certainly been some bad cases of this over the years but 'Mank' has to be near the top. This is a well below average film that is getting by simply based on the Hollywood-appeasing story-line, the fact that many have seen it due to it being on Netflix and finally that David Fincher's name is attached to it.

The film just has nothing interesting to offer. You could say it is a character study - and it probably is - but if the character doesn't have any drama or tension surrounding what they're doing it is still extremely tedious to watch. The first hour of the film for example is basically just prodding around the fact that he needs alcohol in order to write. Exciting stuff.

I've read that Fincher makes his actors do dozens, even hundreds, of takes of certain scenes in order to exhaust them and take earnest out of their performance. I feel like Oldman's performance really struggled because of this. He seemed like he was trying to give extreme amounts of energy to the role, but just didn't have anything left in the tank to do it. He was still good, but I'd suggest he's no chance of taking home the Oscar for this reason.

Amanda Seyfried has to consider herself lucky to be nominated. She does almost nothing note-worthy throughout the film and is only skating in because Best Supporting Actress is always one of the weakest categories on the night year in, year out.

I found 'Mank' extremely hard work to get through. It never captured my interest at any point and felt extremely overlong and stretched out. There are much better films out there to spend your time on.
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6/10
Dramatically Inert
evanston_dad11 December 2020
I should have loved "Mank."

Set in the Hollywood of the 1930s and 40s, featuring a bunch of actors playing such cinematic icons as Orson Welles, Louis B. Mayer, Irving Thalberg and the like, telling the story behind the writing of "Citizen Kane," one of the most seminal movies in film history, shot in a film noirish style reminiscent of "Kane" itself.

So then why does the whole thing land with such a thud?

I don't know about Gary Oldman. I thought we was a good actor. Maybe he is. But he's just so hammy in everything he does lately. Outside of Hollywood movies, has there ever been an alcoholic who walks around stumbling drunk, slurring his words, and crashing dinner parties like John Barrymore on a bender? The alcoholics I have personally known (and I've known an alarming number) never actually get drunk, and in fact try as hard as they can to hide the fact that they're even drinking a lot. But this movie is just one scene after another of Oldman acting like someone's best guess of what a really drunk person would be like.

The film is all about how amazing the screenplay for "Citizen Kane" was, which is true, and which is why it's ironic that the screenplay of "Mank" is the worst thing about it. It tries to recreate "Kane's" fragmented chronology, but while in "Kane" that trick was enigmatic, in "Mank" it's just messy. The problem with trying to literally emulate a classic film in style is that if your film isn't really good in its own right, all you do is remind people of how much better than your own movie the classic one is.

The attempts to point out the political and cultural parallels between America in the mid-30s and America of today feel shoe-horned into the film. They may be true, but they're telegraphed with all the subtlety of a Broadway marquee.

There were scenes I really liked, like one where Herman Mankiewicz and Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfreid) stroll around the grounds of Randolph William Hearst's estate, the one that inspired "Citizen Kane's" Xanadu; and other scenes that I really didn't like, like the one late in the film where Mank crashes one of Hearst's dinner parties and ends with him barfing on the floor. It goes on forever and served as the tipping point for my patience with the movie.

There's enough professionalism and craft behind "Mank" to keep it from being outright bad, and anyone who's interested in the history of Hollywood will probably want to see it, but it's almost painful to think how much better it could have and should have been given its subject matter.

Grade: B-
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1/10
Another Anti-Welles biopic... Does Hearst still Run Hollywood?
TheFearmakers5 December 2020
For some reason whenever there's a movie about or centering around Orson Welles he's always a villainous man-child, and this is no different... In real life, Mank was Welles's favorite scriptwriter and they loved each other but here they eventually become pitted enemies...

Also, something about these Hollywood period pieces: They don't build a story about a person like Mank so we can get to know him and learn about him, which needs to happen since no one knows about him except hardcore movie fans... Instead there's this conceited drollness that assumes we're gonna love the character right off the bat because he's so... conceited and droll and sarcastic...

Here they shove this boozing anti-hero in our faces without explaining what he's up against, or why he's a boozing anti-hero in the first place... It's as if the audience will adore him since it's Gary Oldman being directed by David Fincher... This Self-Aware Cinema, refusing to do any real work to enlighten the audience, is just tiresome...

For a cinematic guy like Fincher, this entire movie looks and feels like a cable movie, which it is, actually, during a pandemic without theaters... And that's not entirely bad because the best stuff is on the small screen nowadays...

But there's also a lack of urgency that Fincher's provided in the past, and the whole thing, again, plays out like yet another hatchet job against Orson Welles... Making it seem like Randy Hearst is still in charge of things, and...

Don't you all know, it was WELLES AND MANK who toppled that braindead regime?
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1/10
Disappointment of the year
melnar116 December 2020
Being over 80, I am conversant with such personalities as Irving Thalberg, Louis B. Mayer, Mankiewicz himself, David O. Selznick, William Randolph Hearst, Orson Welles etc., and I thought I would be watching a wonderful film about all these personalities. The film, however, was extremely badly planned and assembled, resulting in an almost unwatchable, and totally boring movie. In my book, a good movie is one that I'd be able to watch and enjoy repeatedly. This is not one of them.

Emphatically not recommended.
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7/10
The Pauline Keal theory about "Citizen Kane" revisited
frankde-jong27 November 2020
"Mank" from David Fincher is a Netflix production. This provider of streaming services has produced a couple of good films the last few years, such as "Roma" (2018, Alfonso Cuaron) and "The Irishman" (2019, Martin Scorsese). For Fincher it was his first feature film since "Gone girl" (2014), and a very different film then the ones I have seen from him thusfar. Apart from "Gone girl" I have seen "Seven" (1995), The game " (1997) and "Zodiac" , all films with touches of crime in it. The script of "Mank" is based on work of the father of David Fincher, Jack Fincher.

For me "Mank" is above all an ode to the Hollywood studio system at its peak in the late '30s and early 40's, just like "Blancanieves" (2012, Pablo Berger) is an ode to the silent movies and "The artist" (2011, Michel Hazanavicius) to the early talkies. Not that Hollywood is depicted as a sort of heaven on earth, see the malicious manipulations with respect to the election of the governor of California in 1934, but in the other mentioned films the sun does not always shine either.

The main character of the film is Herman Mankiewicz. A perfect role of the versatile Gary Oldman. Herman is the older brother of director Joseph Mankiewicz (1950, "All about Eve") and has been somewhat forgotten. He has (co)written the scenario for films such as "Dinner at eight" (1933, George Cukor), "The Wizard of Oz" (1939, Victor Fleming) and above all "Citizen Kane" (1941, Orson Welles).

In the 70's film critic Pauline Keal wrote an article in which she claims that the scenario for "Citizen Kane" was not a co production between Welles and Mankiewicz but actually written solely by Mankiewicz. This theory has since become obsolete. As a matter of fact I think that the article of Keal has to be interpreted in the context of a discussion she was involved in with the directors of the "Nouvelle vague". These directors saw the director of a movie as the author of the movie. Keal saw a movie as team performance. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. The relation of a director to his movie is different from the relation of the writer to his book or the painter to his painting. Nevertheless the director still is the central point where all the creative decisions converge.

Does "Mank" try to revive a theory which has already been found incorrect? I don't think so. The films ends with the first draft of the script, which is the point in time where the role of Mankiewicz ends and the role of Welles begins.

The subject of the film is the making of "Citizen Kane" (1941, Orson Welles). "Mank" tries to do that in the style of this film. Therefore "Mank" is (of course) in black and white. The film uses also many flashbacks. The present is Mankiewics working on his script in a remote country house, the numerous flashbacks tell the story of his Hollywood past. In one respect "Mank" falls short of his subject film. In "Citizen Kane" we get numerous opinions (and thus a multi facetted image) of Charles Foster Kane. In "Mank" we see all the action through the eyes of Herman Mankiewicz himself.
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3/10
An incoherent, shambling mess
soundoflight22 November 2020
If you took a group of random movie fans, all familiar with David Fincher's work, sat them in a theater, showed them this film sans-credits, and then asked them at the end "who directed it?" not one of them would say "David Fincher." This film is missing every single aspect that people loved about all his previous work.

There is no mystery here. There is little drama. It's a film about the writing of a film, and it comes across about as boring as that sounds. To be fair, "Mank" never really sells itself as anything different, but seeing the Fincher name and the (ridiculously inflated) IMDB score was enough to make me think there must be something more here. Or maybe I just didn't understand it, because I certainly felt like much of the film was flying over my head, with all of the time jumps, characters appearing with little explanation like we were supposed to know who they were, and the constant 'name drops' in the dialogue of prominent people from the 1930s hollywood and political scene. For me this last one was the fatal flaw. The film takes for granted that the viewer will know all these names and backstories of people that are now obscure and long forgotten. So the entire film from start to finish has these references to contemporary people and politics flying over our heads, leaving us bewildered in their wake. If one hasn't actually seen Citizen Kane a couple times and doesn't have some rudimentary knowledge of Orson Welles, then this experience would only quadruple, as the film constantly references Citizen Kane without mentioning it by name. This film essentially has a pre-requisite: you must watch Citizen Kane first, or it will make absolutely no sense to you.

But the most glaring thing missing from "Mank" is the distinctive dark and brooding style that Fincher has cultivated over the course of his career and that is entirely absent here. Going in, I was excited to see how Fincher would translate his style over to black and white. The answer is that he doesn't. It's just a standard black and white film. And while it looks good, I was left underwhelmed by the cinematography all the same. Something about it made me feel like it was 'made for Netflix.' In fact, the first jarring realization I had in the theater is that I was watching something in standard 16:9 wide televesion aspect ratio. Not cinemascope or widescreen. Digital, not film. It felt like watching a crummy made for Netflix movie in a theater. And I quickly realized that's exactly what I was doing.
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A Rare Misfire From David Fincher
CinemaClown5 December 2020
Shot in swooning monochrome, bringing Old Hollywood to life in splendid detail and powered by yet another smashing showcase from the always reliable Gary Oldman, Mank chronicles the life of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish the script for Citizen Kane and also offers an interesting glimpse into the influence & inner workings of 1930s Hollywood industry through his shrewd eyes & scathing wit.

Directed by David Fincher, the film marks his return to the cinematic medium after a gap of 6 years and is adapted from a screenplay written by his late father. While it is a departure from his forte, Fincher's direction does retain the sublime craftsmanship & technical perfection that goes into his works and effortlessly transports the viewers to its period setting. The script sculpts the characters with deft care but the narrative still lacks the fluidity necessary for a story like this.

The crisp black-n-white photography, methodical camerawork, ideal lighting, clever humour, smart editing & fitting score certainly enrich the experience but the relaxed pace & unduly focus on flashbacks also makes the ride a bit tedious. Performances are top-notch. Oldman plays the eponymous role from inside out, Amanda Seyfried is captivating in her role, and Tom Burke embodies Orson Welles to near-perfection, nailing the physicality & mannerism of the wunderkind to a tee.

Overall, Mank is an ambitious & audacious venture that presents David Fincher in complete control of his craft but it also isn't a tale that's going to satisfy everyone's palate. More a withering study of power, corruption & politics within the filmmaking industry than a love letter to cinema, Fincher's latest is gripping when covering the writing process of Orson Welles' debut feature but loses steam whenever it reverts to an earlier timeline. All in all, Mank has its merits but unlike Fincher's best-known efforts, it fails to leave behind an indelible imprint.
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5/10
Off the Wall
Hitchcoc15 April 2021
I agree with those who feel cheated because this film lacks the effort to show us the personalities of those who made movies in the golden days. Mankiewicz is so random and so troubled that I couldn't get a real direction. From word one I had trouble feeling any sympathy for this man. Gary Oldman is startlingly good, but the direction and writing put him on the stage alone. I would love to have gotten to know a bit more about the other characters from Thalberg to Hearst. I really looked forward to seeing this and sadly will not watch it agaain.
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4/10
This is not Fincher
gabo_alepb5 December 2020
Warning: Spoilers
Th movie is a mess. Every single review I have read says it is a masterpiece or the best Fincher movie ever. There's no element that point to the director signature. It is a bland, predictable, boring and poorly acted film. The B&W only exacerbates how bland this film is. The constant flashback gimmick is tiresome. The extreme manerism and vintage vocalizations from actors is distracting and take performances from fully develope. It is not historically accurate, but Oliver Stone's JFK proved a film can create it's own aspect of reality by giving a tour de force, Mank is just it's own aspect of reality in a wheelchair, overweight and on sleeping pills. Where is the Social Network fast violent pace? Where is Gone Girl political incorrection? Where is Seven drama and surprise? Nowhere. This felt like a documentary with situation re-enactments.
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1/10
Absolutely boring
Waedliman18 February 2021
I've liked David Fincher since his first films. His aesthetics, his sense of story timing, nothing should have gone wrong, but, oh man, what a flop "Mank" is. I didn't like this film after just a few minutes. What's the reason for that? Well, when dialogues are only used to play up the mental superiority of characters to the audience, I switch off, because I see through the trick. "Mank" is a talky film. However, the dialogues are not razor sharp, they are boring. It revolves around names that you either know or don't know, which makes no difference. In addition, cool music blares all the time, which is supposed to give us the impression that this was all made with a loose hand, but thus seems all the more tense, because one thing Fincher is not - a second Scorsese. Of course Gary Oldman is a great actor, of course the film's design in black and white is also a tribute to the time it illuminates. But just as you don't have to like "Citizen Kane", which, by the way, some consider absolutely boring, you don't have to like "Mank". Hollywood will celebrate it because it likes to celebrate itself. I warn everyone against this dull 130 minutes that go absolutely nowhere.
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