At the outset, Mank gives us a glimpse of old Hollywood while keeping legendary playwright and scriptwriter Herman J ‘Mank’ Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) at the centre of it all. The film begins with Mank accepting a screenplay assignment for the 24-year-old wunderkind Orson Welles for what will come to be known as the greatest Hollywood film made – Citizen Kane. The film goes back in time to set a context as to why a celebrated writer Mank, close to the likes of William Hearst (Charles Dance) and Louis B. Mayer (Arliss Howard), ends up a washed-up artist at the age of 43.
Gary Oldman’s Herman ‘Mank’ Mankiewicz is marvelous
We could go on about how Gary Oldman is easily one of the best actors to walk God’s green earth. However, we will try to stick to his character in this film. Mank is an arrogant drunk who is just as smart as he is sarcastic. Moreover, he has zero flies to give when it comes to speaking his mind, unafraid and unfiltered; even if it means going against his “friends” and “allies”. Oldman gets every nuance so right that he is the star who commands attention not only because he is the titular character but also because he is so damn perfect.
The side characters are strong and have been played by some talented actors
Be it Howard’s opportunistic Mayer or a formidable Hearst by Charles Dance, the supporting characters are superbly written and performed. Herman’s wife, Poor Sara (Tuppence Middleton) and his British secretary Mrs Rita Alexander (Lily Collins) may not have characters indispensable to the central plot but they are so delightfully written; a special mention to Amanda Seyfried who breathes life into Davies.
The Old Hollywood, Depression and pay cuts…it’s all here
Apart from the glitz of the movie-making business, the film also sheds light upon the time where the war was lurking around. The Depression had hit the US and Hollywood obviously bore the brunt as well, obviously. It’s interesting to see Hollywood through a black-and-white narrative, which sort of coaxes us gently into the 1930s-40s, making the film even more enjoyable.
It’s a little dry, we won’t lie
While the film is absolutely beautiful to look at, unfortunately, it skips the emotional narrative only to replace it with an observational commentary. David Fincher makes sure that we are totally hooked to every scene like he does every single time.
WATCH OR NOT
Don’t go in looking for a mass entertainer, you will be disappointed. Let the film take you in once scene at a time and it makes for a beautiful journey. Mank is absolutely worth your time – the whole of 132 mins.
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Jack Fincher
Cast: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried
Streaming on: Netflix