By Elektra Macdonald
Herman J. Mankiewicz, or Mank (Gary Oldman) as he’s known, is a burnt-out alcoholic screenwriter in 1930’s Hollywood. Sequestered in the desert, bedridden and drying out, Mank is trying to ghostwrite the screenplay of Citizen Kane for Orson Welles (Burke) under the watchful eye of his new secretary Rita (Collins) and housekeeper Fraulein Freda (Gossman). Told alongside is the story of Mank himself and his turbulent history with MGM Studio and its bosses, his friendship with powerful media magnate (and Kane inspiration) William Randolph Hearst (Dance) and deeper friendship with Hearst’s mistress Marion (Seyfried). Mank shifts back and forth across the timeline as we piece together the tale of the man and the (almost) mythology behind the making of what is considered by many as the greatest film (and screenplay) of all time.
Supposedly a true story, the Mank screenplay was written by David Fincher’s late father Jack, and has been in the making for a very long time. Nostalgically and charmingly shot in black and white, the film confidently oozes sophistication and quality and wears its Hollywood pedigree with complete unsubtlety in my opinion. If ever there was a self-congratulatory film, made to say, “Look! We shot it in black and white, we’re having a go at Hollywood (not having a go), making a point about manufactured politics (topical!!) AND referencing The Greatest Film EVER!”, this is it. I fully expect it to clean up at the next Oscars.
That’s not to say it isn’t good… it is. Oldman is fantastic, and all the rest of the players are great too. My advice to anyone wanting to watch it is refresh yourself with Citizen Kane first (it will probably add to the experience), and the more you know about Hollywood and the politics of the time the better (the script is so fast-paced at times it can be hard to follow). It’s on Netflix already so easy for most of us to access these days. Last point: take its factuality with a pinch of salt. 8/10