Mank Movie Review
Mank, unsurprisingly, is a movie for no one. And by no one I don’t mean absolutely no one, but a statistically tiny population of people that include director David Fincher, his late father and writer of the film, Jack, and a sampling of cinephiles and film studies majors who get a little too excited, if you know what I’m saying, about stories from old-era cinema. There is nothing wrong with making a movie for nearly no one (clearly this film is very personal for Fincher), but when a film gets released with considerable awards buzz, Oscar-winning Gary Oldman in the title role, and a superb director behind the camera—oh, and on Netflix, meaning mass access—I simply have to warn you that this movie isn’t, likely, for you.
In fact, you’ll probably find it boring. Or stale. Or pretentious. Or simply inconsequential.
Make no mistake: Mank is a beautiful-looking film. Shot in stark black and whites, and with the ever-fastidious Fincher managing every detail, there was really little doubt that, technically speaking, Mank would be anything less than superbly made. Coupled with a strong score by Trent Reznor, the movie has a lot to like in that regard.
But as a moviegoing experience, as a form of entertainment meant to be consumed, Mank ain’t exactly enthralling stuff.
About Herman Mankiewicz and his experience writing Citizen Kane—another technically ambitious but arguably less-than-thrilling production (yes, you heard me)—in which he bounces between discussions about film, politics, and drinking (well, not discussions about but the act of), Mank is an exercise in futility. Filmmakers and writers have always been drawn to, understandably but disappointingly, stories about filmmakers and writers, despite such stories generally not being very interesting. Fincher, who has several fantastic projects to his credit, unfortunately decided to waste (sorry, devote) years of his life to making a movie about a bedridden, alcoholic asshole writing another movie.
Scene by scene, Mank has a lot to sink your teeth into. The screenplay by Jack Fincher boasts plenty of spicy, wordy dialogue and Oldman, though perhaps not quite the right fit for the character at hand, is up to the task. Actors such as Amanda Seyfried also dissolve into their roles and seem to be enjoying their lines.
But pieced together into a two-hour-plus story, Mank is a tiring, self-indulgent slog that isn’t boring as much as it is endlessly tedious. Both Finchers seem to get lost in the momentary minutia, and by doing so they lose sight of the bigger picture. After a while, everything starts blending together and eventually the movie ends without the film adhering to the effective structure needed to warrant any kind of satisfaction whatsoever. There’s no Rosebud moment, that’s for sure.
For people who have strong appreciation for Citizen Kane, the people involved in front of and behind the camera, or political discussions that awkwardly are retrofitted to parallel today’s situation, Mank may fit the bill. But for the 99.9% of the rest of us—statistically everyone—Mank is a blatant misfire for David Fincher, his first. That should be expected when you make a movie for no one.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.