Saturday, December 26, 2020


Movie Name:
Year of Release: 2020
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tuppence Middleton, Arliss Howard, Tom Pelphrey, Monika Gossmann, Joseph Cross, Sam Troughton, Toby Leonard Moore, Tom Burke, Charles Dance, Ferdinand Kingsley, Jamie McShane
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
View Trailer

Synopsis and Review:
A new film by David Fincher is always a momentous occasion, and this is his most recent feature since "Gone Girl", which came out in 2014. The film follows the true story of Herman J. Mankiewicz, a screenwriter in Hollywood, who crafted a long standing reputation as an impeccable writer, but also as someone with an acerbic wit, and an alcoholic. We witness his life in the late 30s, as he embarks on a new project, writing a screenplay for what will hopefully be a project directed by Orson Welles (which of course turns out to be "Citizen Kane"). The script he writes, is based on what he witnessed for years while fraternizing with William Randolph Hearst, his lover actress Marion Davies, and the general game of influences that permeated across Hollywood. The narrative also allows us to see the ideals which propelled Mankiewicz, as well as bit of his personal life, and his relationship with his wife Sara. 
Whenever one watches a film directed by David Fincher, one comes to expect a layer of professionalism and technical wizardry that is unparalleled, and "Mank" is no exception. The production design, cinematography, score, costume design, are flawless and immediately set this film apart. However, where this film ends up failing to register as much as his previous endeavors, lies on the fact that in producing and narrating a story about a writer who self sabotages his endeavors, and who wallows in alcoholism, feels a bit like stories that have been tackled in the past. For all the alienation and examination of the rotten underbelly of Hollywood, the character itself wallows and lives from it. In a way, this film reminded me of Billy Wilder's phenomenal "Sunset Boulevard", without having characters half as engaging and interesting. Considering a substantial part of the film is focused on Mank's process of writing the script, for what eventually became "Citizen Kane", it's never clearly understandable why he chose to write about the topic or characters themselves, or for that matter, what the relationship with Welles eventually turned out to be. It's a script that also never really gives much of an understanding for Mank's relationships with family members (brother, wife, children), or even colleagues. In a way, Mank comes across mostly as an observational passenger of the narrative taking place, and not an active participant in it. Still the director manages to capture the energy of film making and that entire Hollywood ecosystem of the 30s, and the supporting cast, in particular Amanda Seyfried, is truly fantastic as Marion Davies, the same going for the smaller parts given to Ferdinand Kingsley, Charles Dance and Lily Collins. Gary Oldman clearly relishes the central part, but the role and the performance comes across as a single note interpretation of the "spiraling out of control alcoholic writer", with just a few scenes in between where he provides hints of something more, a humane side which for the most part is lacking. It's an interesting film, but it also may be Fincher's least insightful one so far.