Movie review: Mank
New tune played on an old fiddle
Should the Oscars still go ahead next year, expect Gary Oldman to be the odds-on favourite to win.
In the biographical film Mank, which is currently showing on Netflix, his portrayal of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz – Mank to most – has that lived-in, effortless quality that thoroughly convinces.
No mean feat, considering Oldman is around 23 years older than the man he is portraying.
But given Mankiewicz's alcoholism and the 1930s level of intense, filterless smoking, pictures attest to his self-inflicted accelerated ageing.
Mankiewicz is also charmer with an acerbic wit – one so sharp he cuts himself.
His predisposition to saying the funniest thing makes him a must-have at parties of the rich and famous, including those of media magnate William Randolph Hearst (an excellent Charles Dance). But his drinking gives his presence an ever-shortening expiry point.
He draws on this world, the friendships and personal information - most notably of Hearst's mistress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) to inspire the script for the Orson Welles classic Citizen Kane.
Mank has great performances. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is wonderful. And while it feels very route one to have a film about Citizen Kane be in monochrome, hop around chronologically and emulate shots from the 1941 classic, it is gorgeous.
Yet, while Mank is based on a script by his late father Jack, director David Fincher has created a passion project that somewhat lacks passion and at times feels like an airless exercise in recreation.
The look can outweigh the substance. The addition of film reel cue marks will be cute to some, needlessly faux to others.
Like that other Netflix asset The Crown, this is a drama, not a documentary, and while Fincher is out to cut Welles' reputation as a genius down to size, it is only one take on this backstory.
Some are utterly in love with Mank and it is testament to the advantages of allying with a risk-taking streaming service like Netflix.
Some will appreciate the exercise more than the results.
STARRING: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Dance, Lily Collins, Tom Burke
DIRECTOR: David Fincher
THE SKINNY: Alcoholic screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (Oldman) is tasked by wunderkind director Orson Welles (Burke) to create the screenplay for his first Hollywood picture, 1941's Citizen Kane. However, the sources for Mankiewicz's inspiration are too obvious for some.