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Posts Tagged ‘“Mank”’

Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies, Gary Oldman as Herman Mankiewicz

“MANK” My rating: A- (Now on Netflix)

131 minutes | MPAA rating: R

David Fincher’s “Mank” is both a work of genius and a foolhardy gamble, a backstage-Hollywood epic that, for maximum effectiveness, requires its audience to be intimately familiar with Orson Welles’  “Citizen Kane.”

Great. I watch “Kane” a couple of times a year; I’ve even played it on slo-mo so as to appreciate every little nuance of its visual splendor (though one needs to set aside a full 12 hours for that act of devotion).

But I’m not sure how your average 2020 moviegoer is going to react to Fincher’s effort, since “Mank” is literally crammed to the gills with visual, aural and thematic references to “Kane.”

For this viewer, at least, it is two hours of cinematic heaven.

As presented in the screenplay by Fincher’s late father, Jack Fincher, “Mank” is not about the filming of “Citizen Kane” or about the controversy generated by the finished film. (In fact, I’m not sure the words “Citizen Kane” are even uttered here until the last five minutes.)

Rather it centers on the writing of the screenplay in 1940. Orson Welles, the boy wonder director of “Kane” (Tom Burke, who sounds like Welles even if he doesn’t much look like him), is here little more than a walk-on character.

The film’s “hero” is Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), a Hollywood screenwriter who has worn out his welcome at the studios thanks to his boozing and bitterly dismissive attitude toward Tinseltown’s power structure.

As played by Oldman, Mank is adept at wrapping his verbal poison pills in the soothing charm of a born  ranconteur. He’s just this short of being openly contemptuous of his studio bosses, but even they cannot hate him.

Although he is a miserable SOB, there’s something about Mank that inspires devotion and loyalty. His wife (Tuppence Middleton) — known universally as “Poor Sara” —  wearily cleans up after his boozing and insane gambling habit.

Now Mank’s been hired by Welles — the wiz kid’s been given carte blanche by RKO to make his first movie — to come up with a screenplay about a newspaper tycoon inspired by real-life media mogul William Randolph Hearst.  Mank, nursing a broken leg, has been installed in a bungalow in remote Victorville CA, far away from temptation.

He’s accompanied by producer John Houseman (Sam Troughton), who is to edit his daily pages, and by a somewhat stiff British lady (Lily Collins) who is expected to see to his physical care and keep him off the sauce…although before long he’s made her his collaborator in mischief.

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