Do you need to see CITIZEN KANE before you see MANK?
I've said it before and I will say it again: I am obsessed with David Fincher. He is my favorite living director (Hitchcock is #1 overall, duh) because he is truly a master. I love the way he commands when he directs, and he does not apologize for it. I have been waiting for this film for what feels like forever because of the mere fact that it is a Fincher film (his last film was 2014's GONE GIRL) so when I had the opportunity to see it in a theater before its Netflix release on December 4th, there was no question. The hour drive to the theater was absolutely worth it, and I would do it again!
Do you need to see CITIZEN KANE before you see MANK?--YES! Not to shame anyone here, but if you consider yourself a cinephile who has never seen CITIZEN KANE, what are you doing? No, like, actually, what have you been doing? Anyone who loves movies and identifies as a "movie person" should watch CITIZEN KANE at least once. The film is a definitive work of cinema. Enough about Kane, though, we are here for MANK…
It's David Fincher, need I say more? He knows what he is doing and does not hold back. He expects you as the audience to keep up and follow along--but not in an unrealistic way like Nolan did with TENET, for example. Fincher directs MANK in a way that he challenges the viewer; although MANK is not at all a sequel to CITIZEN KANE, there is still an expectation for previous knowledge of the source material. He pays homage to old Hollywood in a perfect and subtle way, weaving in politics, history, and controversy evenly and strategically. Will I notice and pick up on more things on a second view? Absolutely. But that is what I find so genius about Fincher's direction--it keeps me revisiting his films over and over because there is always something new to discover in what you have already thought you have seen. The ability to take something old and make it still feel so fresh and new is the testament of a director worthy of an award. I hope this happens for Fincher sooner rather than later, as it is well overdue.
A film about the film that is known for arguably being the greatest film ever made? This was absolutely made for people who love films and identify as true cinephiles. This story is about how Herman Mankiewicz wrote Orson Welles’ 1941 classic CITIZEN KANE; a film that boasted the number one ranking on the BFI Sight & Sound Best Film list for 50 years. The narrative shows Mankiewicz struggling with inspiration, deadlines, alcoholic tendencies, love and lust, loss, writer’s block, and a final struggle of power for the credit he deserves for creating and writing CITIZEN KANE. Mank also deals heavily with political issues and controversies that were happening leading up to and during the time when Mank wrote the script. Ultimately though, MANK peeks into the structure of Old Hollywood and gives us a glimpse into that era of filmmaking.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Gary Oldman is Herman Mankiewicz. Like, he literally becomes Mank. Previously, I have felt Oldman has a tendency to be overrated in his roles; I find that he just yells a lot, and there is much more to acting than yelling. I didn’t think he deserved the Oscar for THE DARKEST HOUR (sorry), but I can absolutely see where he could deserve it for MANK. The competition will be tough this year, but a nomination will definitely happen for him.
Amanda Seyfried, from the first frame that she appears on screen is not at all like how we have ever seen her before. This will undoubtedly pinpoint a definitive shift in her career. Seyfried was confident in her performance of Marion Davies, Hearst’s mistress, with great timing and my favorite costumes/attire by far. Will she get a supporting nomination? Probably. However, for me, the true standout is Tuppence Middleton who portrays Mank's patient, loving wife, Sarah Mankiewicz. She delivers such a strong, even performance that I felt she commanded undivided attention in every scene. She was not overmatched, and I craved more of her every time she appeared in a scene and looked forward to the next time she would appear. Lily Collins' character, Rita, has an enjoyable development to witness, who initially seems cold, as she cannot stand Mank and his ways. However, she learns unexpected information about Mank that completely changes her outlook and understanding of the complicated screenwriter. I have to mention Tom Burke, who played the famous Orson Welles--his recognizable voice was almost exact. I would love to know if there was editing to make this so realistic and accurate.
Jack Fincher (yes, David Fincher’s father who passed in 2003) has a way with dialogue: snappy, quick, and clever. The dialogue is not at all pretentious or obnoxious, and there are punchlines that will provide a chuckle or two. All of the actors do a fine job of speaking in that special way that gives dialogue in an old film its own special beat and tempo.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
I found myself in awe of how perfectly the overall look of MANK captured the feeling of an old Hollywood film. There are moments where certain shots literally could have been pulled from KANE and you wouldn't know the difference. The natural haze of a black and white film was not lost, but instead mesmerizing at how incredibly well done and natural it looked. There are small details too, like the cue marks (or cue dot/cue blips) that pop up sporadically and accentuate the aura of an old film production. The makeup and costumes are some of my favorites of any film I have seen in 2020, and Marion Davies (Seyfried) steals the show with each of her looks throughout the film.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
A good score enhances its accompanying scene and does not overpower it, and that absolutely happens here. The most memorable and best example of this is during an anxiety inducing dinner scene--the music made me feel the tension in the room in my gut. There are a few film scores that I consider my go-to choices when I need to focus, or just need background ambiance; my top three are THE SOCIAL NETWORK, VERTIGO, and PARASITE. I can easily see this score added to my list.
MANK was everything I wanted it to be and more. True cinephiles will foam at the mouth for this, but average audiences may be somewhat lost and confused and will find it unenjoyable and overrated, I presume. I cannot wait for December 4th so I can watch it again on Netflix!
MANK will release on Netflix - December 4th, 2020