Mank, a passion project by director David Fincher based upon his late father’s screenplay, gives Gary Oldman another platform to act his butt off.
As Herman Mankiewicz, the co-screenwriter of Citizen Kane, Oldman spends a lot of screen time acting drunk—like, Dudley Moore-in-Arthur drunk. After all of the drunken tirades and mutterings, the film is about “Mank” ultimately wanting screen credit for his work despite an agreement with director Orson Welles (Tom Burke) to surrender the credit in exchange for a decent paycheck.
Welles bristled at Mank getting credit, and the film’s best scene takes place when the two finally meet in Mank’s rental after a series of courteous phone calls. The writing and direction in this scene make it perfectly clear that the Finchers saw Welles as an egotistical prick. Welles, a classic control freak, has a lot in common with David Fincher: Both are perfectionists, and both are capable of amazing work, leaving disgruntled co-workers in their wake.
The movie, shot in black and white—very much in the style of Kane itself—is visually amazing. There’s a walk that Mank and actress Marion Davies (a strong Amanda Seyfried) take around the estate of William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) that feels like it was lifted from classic films.
The story is good, although it has been told before, so there’s nothing all that surprising here. The only Oscar that Kane got—even with its legendary status as the Greatest Film Ever Made in some circles—was for its screenplay. Mank puts a big exclamation point on that fact.
Mank is now streaming on Netflix.