Mank (2020)

mank poster 2020 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Gary Oldman always bring talent, great visuals

Fictionalizes so much of the story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Mank

Studio: Netflix

Genre(s): Drama/Comedy

Release Date(s): November 13, 2020 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

mank herman j mankiewicz marion davis gary oldman amanda seyfried

So…hook up with any newspaper magnates recently?

Blustery alcoholic Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) has a way with words but a mouth and wit that can sometimes get him in trouble.  While laid up after an accident that breaks his leg, Mank finds himself employed by Orson Welles (Tom Burke) to craft a script.  As Mank writes against deadline and binges, he recalls his time in Hollywood, his contemptuous relationship with the studios and Lois B. Mayer (Arliss Howard), and the friendship with Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) and through Marion his seat at the table of William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance).  Mank is burning bridges and leaving a trail of destruction behind him…and it could be his best work yet.

Directed by David Fincher, Mank is a biopic comedy-drama.  Released by Netflix, the film was scripted by Fincher’s father Jack Fincher before his death and is a loose biopic of Herman J. Mankiewicz (November 7, 1997-March 5, 1953) and focusing on the writing of Mankiewicz Academy Award winning script for Citizen Kane (1941).  The film was released to positive reviews.  It received Academy Awards for Best Production Design and Best Cinematography with nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Oldman), Best Supporting Actress (Amanda Seyfried), Best Sound, Best Original Score, Best Hairstyling and Make-Up, and Best Costume Design.

mank herman j mankiewicz louis b mayer

MGM is all about me

Biopics have some issues for me that have existed since biopics began to be made…they take interesting people and feel they need to make up events around them rather than tell the story of the person.  While this is done in Mank, there feels like there is a bit of reason behind this falsified narrative of Mank’s life…but it still has the danger of assuming people “know” Herman Mankiewicz just because they saw the movie.

Much of the film didn’t happen.  Yes, Mank was in an accident and wrote Citizen Kane while recovering from the injuries then fought to have his name on the script…a long Hollywood debate exists on how much Mank wrote and how much Welles wrote but the general consensus is that Mank wrote a majority with Welles adding a few key elements that helped make the movie famous.  Mank’s behavior and friendships with the characters were in many parts accurate, but thinks like saving a German village, standing up for Upton Sinclair, his friend’s suicide, and the parade of people trying to convince Mank not to make Citizen Kane were mostly created for the film…which isn’t uncommon.

mank herman j mankiewicz san simeon marion davies amanda seyfried

Just a couple of drunks on a walk at a seaside mansion.

While many biopics add these details for boosting the ideals of the lead, it seems to almost serve a different role here while tied into the visuals of the movie.  The movie is shot in a style resembling an old film complete with cue marks on reel changes and a lush black-and-white look.  Oldman is too old and playing much, much younger than he looks (which feels like another stab at classic biopics).  In classic films, the embellishment of the lead is expected, and Mank is set-up as a kind of anti-hero caught in a classic film.  He’s given all the hero characteristics in action (aka standing up for the little guy), but he’s a drunk who also doesn’t keep his mouth shut and likes to spin half-truths…which it feels the whole picture is.

mank herman j mankiewicz william randolph hearst gary oldman charles dance

Wait…who’s the organ grinder’s monkey?

Oldman always brings class to movies, and it has come to be expected of him.  He’s very much a chameleon and always seems different from Sid and Nancy to Darkest Hour.  You come to expect a good performance from him, and you get one.  One of the surprises of Mank is Amanda Seyfried as Hearst’s real life mistress Marion Davies.  She’s bubbly, smarter than she plays herself, and fiercely loyal to her friends and Hearst.  I’ve liked Seyfried for years, but it is a different role for her.  Likewise Charles Dance gets to bring his villainous performance to someone who is often considered a real life villain in William Randolph Hearst.  I also like Ariliss Howard as Louis B. Mayer (who from all accounts was a villain).  In general the supporting cast is full of strong performances (and you even get a small appearance of Bill Nye (aka the Science Guy) as Upton Sinclair.

Mank is a stylish movie, and while I get upping the fiction for a person who dealt in fiction and wordplay, it is also a bit frustrating not to get a real biography.  Herman Mankiewicz seems like an interesting guy and he probably would have loved the idea of himself turned into a “hero” from what it seems about his life…he gets a bit of the last laugh.

Related Links:

The 93rd Academy Award Nominations

Citizen Kane (1941)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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