Running Time: 131 mins.
Where Can You See It?: Netflix
Premise: Tracks Hollywood screenwriter and alcoholic Herman J. Mankiewicz throughout the 1930s as he works to complete the script for Citizen Kane.
Behind-the-Scenes: David Fincher’s dad, Jack Fincher, wrote the screenplay. Jack passed away in 2003, and David has long toyed with the idea of making it. He brought in frequent collaborator Eric Roth to update and doctor the script. Was given the greenlight by Netflix after David finished the second season of Mindhunter and was asked what he wanted to do next.
The Good: David Fincher is nothing if not a stickler for detail, and there’s all sorts of period-specific craft and care that went into making Mank. Some of the dialogue zings and Amanda Seyfried gives an Oscar-caliber performance as Marion Davies. She’s radiant here. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is way out of their wheelhouse, yet equally amazing as some of their previous Fincher scores.
The Bad: The movie doesn’t do much to engage viewers who aren’t already in its pocket. Deals less with the making of Citizen Kane, as some may have hoped, and operates more as a peek into 1930s Hollywood filtered through the eyes of Mank, played capably but not memorably by a miscast Gary Oldman. The black and white cinematography is good, but doesn’t hold a candle to the likes of Netflix’s other 4-letter Oscar play from 2018, Roma. The episodic nature of the script means scenes come and go, without much tying them together, making this mostly a slog to sit through. Mank is bedridden for the first half of the movie, and less patient viewers may be tempted to jump ship. Maybe it gets better on subsequent viewings?
Should You See It?: Can’t believe I’m saying this, but no. This one’s strictly for cinephiles and Oscar completists. Then again, I consider myself to be both and it wasn’t for me, so who knows. This is the kind of Oscar bait that cleans up on the nomination front and then never wins anything because it garners more respect than adulation. Time will tell, of course, but after one viewing, I’d rank this one at the bottom of Fincher’s filmography.
Star Rating: **1/2 out of 5 stars
Better Than: Hillbilly Elegy
Worse Than: Citizen Kane, Roma, The Social Network & every other Fincher movie (even Alien3)
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