It turned out that he had kept his father’s Jack script for “Mank” in the trunk for decades. (Jack Fincher died in 2003.) Fincher dusted the film, which tells the controversial backstory about how former MGM screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz wrote and had “Citizen Kane” for RKO and New York child prodigy Orson Welles (Tom Burke) struggle to get screen credit. (They shared the film’s only Oscar in 1942.)
Any self-respecting cinephile will indulge in this gloriously assembled black and white throwback to Hollywood’s Golden Age, featuring the funniest Algonquin writers for MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer (Arliss Howard) and David O. Selznick (Toby Leonard Moore) . Fincher and Company purposely created a movie that looks, sounds, and feels like a movie made more than 70 years ago. Some film buffs will come along, while others will not have access to the diverse charms of the film.
Production design, cinematography and costumes are top notch, and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross deliver a soaring orchestral score with ominous tones of Hitchcock favorite Bernard Herrmann, to whom Welles attributed 50 percent of the success of “CItizen Kane”.
Gary Oldman on David Fincher’s return to the cinema “Mank”.
Audiences are most likely to appreciate that craftsmanship are high-ranking academy voters who love their TCM. While initial reaction on social media is bullish, movie Twitter is currently saving for nutritious movies. It’s a shame that “Mank” with all its breathtaking production values is likely to be tried mostly online.
Stealing the show features two main characters, youngest Oscar winner Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”), who didn’t rely on makeup for this protean verbal performance, and Amanda Seyfried (“Les Miserables”) as actress Marion Davies . She was the shrewd hostess in San Simeon and the seductive partner of the California castle owner who published the magnate William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance). He inspired Welles’ Charles Foster Kane and the Xanadu who devoured his reed opera singer Susan Alexander Kane.
Fincher and Oscar winner Eric Roth worked on the script and, according to Fincher’s interview with New York Magazine, pulled the older Fincher’s anger at Welles. (Roth receives producer credit.) Instead, the film deals with a more timely political message about how the media can manipulate the public with false narratives. Mayer and his Lieutenant Irving B. Thalberg (Ferdinand Kingsley) organized propaganda to sink the 1934 Democratic presidential candidate, socialist writer Upton Sinclair, in the elections. While liberal cognoscenti in the academy may react to this narrative in an election year, it is unclear how this subplot will play for a mainstream audience on Netflix or in theaters.
What many in the academy will tell is the desire of a stranded artist to do his best without interfering. The film doesn’t go into the hideous details of how Hearst bombed RKO’s release of “Citizen Kane.” Or how Mankiewicz drank himself into an early grave at the age of 55. But actors will appreciate Seyfried’s kinky wife of the world, who lets her Brooklyn accent fly with Mank, along with Oldman’s meticulous and moving performance as a self-destructive drinker and gamer, sick of playing court jester and wanting to believe in myself again. “I should have done something now,” he says.
Remember, Oscar voters have a thing for backstage films about show business, from “The Bad and the Beautiful” and “All About Eve” to the more recent “The Artist” (also in black and white) “La La Land “,” And “Birdman”. You can commend the two-time director of Oscar nominee Fincher for his bold Derring do. Or not.
“Mank” will be in selected cinemas on November 13th and Netflix on December 4th.
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