Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Jack Fincher
Starring: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tom Pelphrey
A One Character Film; The Movie Itself…..
Like Christopher Nolan before him, David Fincher has crafted a film that is more concerned with focusing on a moment in time, one could say a situation, rather than telling a story with fully fleshed out characters. While this makes for an interesting watch in theory, this style of filmmaking is far better suited for documentaries and historical programming; not multimillion dollar blockbusters.
2020’s “Dunkirk” is the best way to describe “Mank,” a movie where the only character is the situation and the characters are simply window dressing. Unfortunately, without relatable characters, you don’t have an engaging story and without an engaging story, you will quickly not care about what you are watching.
For all of Fincher’s ambitions, “Mank” is arguably his most forgettable film to date.
This goes without saying, but David Fincher knows how to craft a piece of cinematic art.
The same thing can be said about “Mank.”
What Fincher is able to accomplish here is a perfect blend of old school techniques with a modern age touch. There’s a fine balance that needs to be perfected in order to capture that old school Hollywood essence; something that 2011’s “The Artist” failed to do. Never once do you feel that this film is so-called “modern” and it could easily be blended in with other golden age films of the ’40s.
Considering this is a film paying a love letter to “Citizen Kane” the clear dedication to the craft is on full display. From the opening title card, to the use of dream sequences and imaginatory imagery, to the little blip (or cue mark as some call it) in the top right corner. It all just works.
No doubt this film will walk away with many technical Oscars; as it should. From a film lovers perspective, “Mank” is a technical marvel to behold.
An Inside Look At Hollywood Filmmaking
Speaking of film lovers, this is a film that is seemingly tailor-made for them.
“Mank” is not just a film of how “Citizen Kane” was created, but how Hollywood operates its business and routines. Learning how Producers pitch ideas to studio executives was especially eye-opening. You get the sense that “the suits” who cut the checks are, how should we say, not that bright. But what really made you take a step back, was in learning how important it is for a writer to have his name in the credits and how far some will go to suppress that recognition. A decision that actual “Citizen Kane” writer Herman Mankiewicz learned the hard way. Tinseltown can be cutthroat and even the most respected Hollywood figures have to fight for what is rightfully theirs.
Loyalty is a rarity in Hollywood, especially in the so-called “Golden Age,” ignorance was rampant and you had to have an iron will to survive. Never compromise, never accept half measures and never swindle yourself out of a deal of a lifetime. For some, they may not connect with what this film is trying to convey. But for others, this is exactly the kind of Hollywood film they have been clamoring for.
If nothing else, “Mank” will provide the answer to that deep burning question inside of you: “Could I make it in Hollywood?”
Uninteresting, Unengaging and Disconnected
As stated before, this is a film where the lone character is the scenario itself. All “characters” are simply window dressing for that scenario.
You know sometimes where you attend a graduation or a ceremony and there’s that one guy who talks about their achievements for far too long?
That’s “Mank”in a nutshell.
You just want the speaker to be quiet so you can make it to the dessert table. Far too many times, characters will go on long monologues about their careers and how they were mistreated. We get it, you’re frustrated because you were at the top of your game in your golden years.
The central conflict of getting “Citizen Kane” written is simply not engaging enough to hold your attention and is better suited as a documentary. This is where “Mank” and “Dunkirk” differ in execution. “Dunkirk,” had exhilarating action, tight pacing, burning tension and a unique sense of World War II storytelling. But for “Mank,” watching a writer bumble through his alcoholism to write a movie screenplay is simply not engaging enough to carry a film without engaging characters.
This is where this film ultimately fails and it’s unfortunate because this film should be a cinephile’s dream.
“Mank” is a technical marvel but a narrative dud; that’s the best way to describe it.
If you’re a film lover, there’ss something here for you and you will find enjoyment one way or another. Learning the ins and outs of Hollywood is exciting and seeing old school techniques put to good use is exhilarating. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough character or any kind of engaging narrative to keep the story from running out of gas. You won’t remember any of the characters or even any lines of dialogue.
But at the same time, you will always remember the experience you had. That alone is worth giving “Mank” a piece of your attention.