What is the story about?
The film tells the story of Herman J.Mankiewicz who re-evaluated Hollywood in the 30s with his impeccable wit while he races to finish the stupendous film Citizen Kane. The film was written by Jack Fincher and is directed by David Fincher.
Mank is a feature to be appreciated for its diligent approach to keep the Old-Hollywood alive in the present time. David Fincher’s ode to his father’s long-time dream came to fruition much after his demise. Mank has got all you expect of it to from start to finish. The references to contemporary people, politics, the hierarchy all tastefully baked into a layered cake which itself becomes too special that it ends up being so elite that it goes over your head if you’re not aware or seen the said film “Citizen Kane,” because in the film the reference to the film is directly indicated.
The main thing which didn’t work for me was Fincher’s style which was missing in this film. Agreed, it’s not the same territory he often explores. But there’s a sensibility in the treatment of the film that seemed to have its guard down to suit the mood? Well, that’s a matter for a debate on another day. It well-written and ode-fully directed but the constant name drops actually make you go back and forth checking who and how to keep yourself updated.
Then comes the photography, which read during the opening credits as “Photographed in Dynamic Range by Erik Messerschmidt.” As much as I enjoyed the black & white fare, the impeccable digital shadow was a kind of hindrance that crash-landed the viewing experience. I mean, it doesn’t hurt to put some grains in there, make it look authentic. I believe Netflix can surely afford it.
The writing was seamless and truly captures the struggles of the writers back then which hasn’t improved drastically to date. Giving a creator his/her due credit has always been an issue across all the film industries. But Mank serves the elite buffs who have the names and facts at their fingertips. Could’ve been a relishing affair if it had the bandwidth of the series “Hollywood.”
Mank has an ensemble that is in one word “Remarkable.” A classic story requires a certain amount of maturity when it comes to performances and it delivers diligently without compromising any of it. Picking Gary Oldman (Herman J.Makiewicz) to play the infamous writer who was out and about to change the face of Hollywood in The 30s was the best thing that happened to the film. Gary does an amazing job that no one else could’ve pulled off. The alcoholic and the witty writer and the body language that he brings to the table were remarkable. Tom Burke (Orson Wells) may not be seen much on screen but when he does reminds you of the classic characters whose voice and mention bring great integrity to the character. I really did enjoy the performance of Lily Collins as Rita, who did a commendable job. Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies was elegantly glamorous reflecting the glitz of Hollywood back then. Another actor who did well in the classic drama is Arliss Howard (Louis B. Mayer) he was cunning and cut-throat.
Music & Other Departments
Photography was great, but the black and white representation wasn’t authentic and doesn’t actually give you the feel of watching a classic biographical film. The score was perfect which reflected the mood of the said time and keeps you hooked. The editing was slick and had good control over the runtime.
Stellar performance by Gary Oldman who shoulders the film diligently and keeps the audience rooted to finish watching the film. So were the rest of the supporting cast who were commendable.
Mank throws in too many names and references which may leave the regular audience hapless, googling for them. As much as you may enjoy period films they have a penchant to keep the audience rooted with facts and references with profound research. Mank has done its research well but it literally translated it on the screen without refining to make the audience engage in its beauty. That leaves Mank reveling in its own glory.
Did I enjoy it?
I liked the idea, but not the execution.
Do I recommend it?
If you’re a David Fincher fan, then you may be disappointed with Mank. And if you’re a fan of period b&w features then you may or not be disappointed depending on your expectation from it. To me, it felt like the hype didn’t quite strike the note.