Long before Mank admits “sometimes I’m too clever by half,” that was my impression of the film. Despite quality writing and great acting, Mank just doesn’t connect. To get that 1940’s Citizen Kane feel, the director uses black and white film, heavy on the dark gray. Then, in an apparent attempt at political correctness, history is rewritten. History vs Hollywood gives it a 5.5/10 reality score. Moreover, Mank has a friend review an early portion of his script. Like the first half of this movie, the friend complains that the plot jumps around like Mexican jumping beans.
Quite witty, Herman J. Mankiewicz asked about his dislike for Louis B, Mayer, replies ” if I ever go to the electric chair, I hope he is sitting on my lap.” By the end of the film, we still don’t know the true justification for Citizen Kane. Just why did Mank risk his career to take on William Randolph Hearst? If it was because he didn’t like Hearst’s brand of sensationalism, might not this film be accused of the same? The man who wrote, or worked on, The Wizard of Oz, The Pride of the Yankees, and The Pride of St, Louis deserves more. I give Mank 3.5 Gavels and it receives an 87% Rotten Tomatoes rating with a 7.9/10 IMDb score.
As a well-know writer at MGM Studios, Mank is a frequent guest at San Simeon. He befriends Marion Davies, longtime girlfriend of William Hearst who financed her films. In 1934, Mank determines that Hearst and Louis B. Mayer are behind the campaign to discredit Upton Sinclair‘s bid to become governor of California. By 1940, at the behest of Orson Welles, is ready to “betray” Hearst even at the cost of his friendship with Davies. In the worst secret of the decade, everyone knows that Citizen Kane is William Randolph Hearst.
Clearly losing no skill since the Darkest Hour, Gary Oldham plays Mank. Even as a drunk, he snaps off his lines, one after another. Amanda Seyfried vamps it up as Marion Davies, far removed from her Mamma Mia character. Recently the lead in Emily in Paris, Lily Davis is Rita Alexander, impressive as Mank’s supportive secretary.
The last part of Mank covers the feud between he and Welles over the writing credit for Citizen Kane. Once again, the film takes the controversial, less accepted version of the truth. At this point in the film, I’m not sure anyone cares.
As the Detroit News puts it, Mank “expresses both appreciation for and wariness of Hollywood’s allure and its ability to shape reality.” The Arizona Republic writes “Mank is all over the place. It’s an obvious labor of love for Fincher, which may explain that. But it’s a good movie that is at least in part about the making of a great one.” Will the audience care about the writing process of Citizen Kane enough to make this a favorite? Curious, maybe. Caring is a much deeper emotion.