Mank — Movie Review

by KJ Proulx

Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman in ‘Mank’ [Credit: Netflix]

Even for younger demographics who haven’t seen the classic film Citizen Kane, I feel like the majority of entertainment connoisseurs are at least aware of its existence and cultural relevance. Infamously being known as one of the greatest films to ever be released, it was only a matter of time before a film like Mank was made. Not directly about the making of Citizen Kane, but rather about the life of one man involved in the creation of it, Mank is now streaming on Netflix. Being David Fincher’s latest project was enough to get me to watch it already, but I must say, even though I very much enjoyed watching it, it’s absolutely one of his weakest films. That’s not to say this is a bad film by any means though, because he’s just that talented. Here are my thoughts on Mank.

The story at hand takes place around 1939, with Herman Mackiewicz (Gary Oldman) trying to overcome his alcoholism as he attempts to write what some people will call his greatest screenplay of all time. With the help of flashbacks to the early 1930s in order to keep you invested in this otherwise thin premise, I found myself taking in the wonderful look and feel of the film, as well as the set pieces. Everything about this film feels authentic for the time period and the central performance by Gary Oldman really makes this film feel a million times better than it is. Yes, the content throughout this film is interesting, but I truly felt that there were about 30–45 minutes of amazing content in a film that’s over two hours long. The slower portions of the film were still very, very admirable from a filmmaker's perspective, but I just didn’t feel that there was enough meat to the story to call it a masterpiece or anything like that.

That may seem like I’m going to be giving this film an average grade, but that’s actually not the case. Yes, there is a very limited number of memorable moments from this movie, but I will always remember watching it for the terrific direction by David Fincher and the Black and White tone to the movie, along with the make-up, costumes, and set design. These all made for a film that left an imprint on my mind. These are also the things that most film lovers can get behind while watching Mank, even if they aren’t immersed in the film for its story. I wasn’t blown away by the content presented here, but I did appreciate learning some behind-the-scenes information about a film that’s nearly eight decades old.

I think Netflix was the absolute best place for a movie like this to end up in today’s day, simply because I believe it would not have reached a wide audience. This is a very niche film in terms of how invested the average moviegoer can be. If you haven’t seen Citizen Kane or at least know certain aspects about that film, there will be revelations toward the end of Mank that don’t seem all that important. I knew what certain characters were talking about, but only because I’ve seen Citizen Kane. It’s hard for a film like this to garner the attention of a new audience, especially when the backbone is of a film as old as Citizen Kane.

Overall, Fincher has made some of my favourites films over the last 10–20 years, so I will always be eagerly awaiting his next project. For me, Mank was one of his weakest outings because it felt the least like his style. That’s not usually a bad thing, but I feel that his director’s touch is very much present throughout all of his projects, until this one. Yes, the elegance of direction is there and everything about this film is top-notch in terms of garnering awards and things like that, but it just didn’t have enough to warrant a best picture nomination, at least in my eyes. I really enjoyed watching Mank for what it was, but I wish the film had a lot more to offer in terms of story. Still, it’s a great watch for film lovers and if you were someone who has knowledge of the film Citizen Kane, I absolutely recommend checking it out.

Rating: 4/5

Check out the trailer below:

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Film Lover First. Critic Second.

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