Starring Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tuppence Middleton, Arliss Howard, Charles Dance, Tom Burke, Bill Nye, Tom Pelphrey
Fascinating. Splendid. Enigmatic.
Herman Mankiewicz: You cannot capture a man’s entire life in two hours. All you can hope is to leave the impression of one.
What impression are we left with of Herman Mankiewicz’s life? He’s a drunkard, it seems, first and foremost; reckless. He’s also brave and full of integrity as played by Gary Oldman in David Fincher’s new movie. A Hollywood hand during the Golden Age, Mank lived in the background rewriting other people’s scripts and never getting credit for it. As this film begins, the Golden Age has passed and Mank’s burnt out. He accepts a deal writing a script for newcomer, boy wonder, Orson Welles, a script that would eventually become the great Citizen Kane. I wonder about a lot of things with this movie. For one, how enjoyable is it if you don’t know these people (Thalberg, Mayer, Hecht, etc.) and this setting (Hollywood’s studio era)? I have a passable knowledge of these things and, perhaps as a result, I found this film fascinating, but it’s one that risks alienating its audience, not just because it’s so specific, but also because I’m not sure yet if it has a point. What’s it saying if it’s saying anything? There’s hints of betrayal but it’s a paltry betrayal if that. There’s moments in the narrative when Mank is asked to sell out, but he never does and it never seems to be any kind of temptation to him either. There’s no conflict that I can put my finger on and single out, but I’ll take this film at face value. It’s a technically astounding, enriching piece of history; an important backstory that often gets treated as a side note if remembered at all.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-