These days Netflix is rarely dropping flicks that deserve to be included in the upcoming 93rd Academy Awards (whose fate as of now is still dicey). But thankfully, the streamer is not allowing 2020 to be all bad as this Friday, it released filmmaker David Fincher’s long-awaited nostalgic biopic Mank, starring the celebrated actor Gary Oldman in the titular role, playing it with a finesse that guarantees another Oscar for the amazing actor.
For those who are familiar with David Fincher’s work will find Mank to be miles apart from his other renowned works, This latest original feature is more about how another cinematic gemstone, Citizen Kane, came into being while depicting that era, more popularly known as the Golden Age of Hollywood, along with the political mayhem and social unrest that is typical of those years.
If you are planning to sit down with Google open, planning to match the accuracy of the facts, then the better option would be to pick something less intense as Mank is pretending to be perfect. There are plenty of fabricated, hammed up aspects, but they are balanced by the visible adoration for that nostalgia inducing bygone era and the revolution in filmmaking it brought.
While watching Mank, you will often be struck by how such a cinematic gem like this deserves a big screen debut. But given the current circumstances, all it got was a hurried and rather limited theatrical release before debuting on the streaming platform. But to get the chance to watch this personal ode, written by David Fincher’s father Jack before his death in 2003, and to know that it is yours to rewatch whenever you please is a privilege, an honour that is perhaps one of the rare silver linings in 2020
Mank follows the story of Gary Oldman’s 40-year-old Herman J. Mankiewicz a.k.a. “Mank”, a once-legendary but now washed-up scriptwriter, who penned Orson Welles’, Citizen Kane. Mank is working on two simultaneous timelines– one where Herman is bound to long bed rest after a car accident as he slowly recovers and another, where we get to see the legend self-destroying his life and drinking away his magnanimous career. He is left labourously tending to a huge debt and ghostwriting scripts, allowing others to take credit for it.
It’s the renowned Citzen Kane came to be as Herman is confined to a remote house by Welles and tasked with completing the script. All he gets for company is a secretary, Rita Alexander (Lily Collins in probably one of her finest roles to date), as well as a nurse, Fräulein Frieda (Monika Gossmann). His sudden epiphanies are intermixed with flashbacks, where we see Mank interacting with several powerful personalities, including newspaperman William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) and his mistress Marion Davies, played by a dazzling Amanda Seyfried who awes and impresses.
Moment of truth– if you haven’t seen…scratch that. If you liked Citizen Kane, the chances that you’ll dig Mank significantly increase. But if you didn’t, then the latest David Fincher original is a little tough to embrace given its long runtime and the fact that it prioritizes cinematic elements before simplifying a complex story. But there is also much to love about Mank– the expertly done black-and-white cinematography, the retro sound effects, and of course, Gary Oldman.
Oldman embraces Mank like he has never been anyone else and portrays him with a ease that is makes it impossible to not be impressed. So, even if you are no fan of David Fincher, black-white features, or old Hollywood, come for Oldman as he never disappoints.