New movie “Mank” highlights old Hollywood classics

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Six years have passed since David Fincher’s latest film directorial endeavor, not counting his work on the Netflix show “Mindhunter,” and now he returns with “Mank,” a movie about the making of “the” movie: “Citizen Kane.” The film follows American screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his process of creating the script for Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane,” as well as his relationships with various powerful persons in Hollywood.

The film was written by David Fincher’s late father, Jack Fincher, but it was sadly never brought to life during Jack’s own lifetime, as he died in 2003. Jack’s script is filled with Easter eggs and cheeky nods to “Citizen Kane” and Hollywood in general, which is something that film buffs will most likely appreciate, but it also contains a lot of meandering conversations filled with an unnecessary amount of exposition.

The film is shot and edited beautifully, and the cinematography is the real star of this “motion picture.” Filmed entirely in black and white, the atmosphere of the movie is incredibly consistent and unique, which is something that Fincher always exceled at when it comes to directing. Incredibly detailed and meticulously crafted costumes by Trish Summerville also added to the visual splendor of this time machine.

Fincher is known as a perfectionist, reportedly doing upwards of fifty takes for a single scene, but that perfection always pays off in the end product, which is certainly the case for “Mank.” Even with the meandering script, David Fincher’s directorial vision manages to make the film engaging and captivating almost the whole way through.

The score, composed by Fincher’s known collaborators Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, is an ode to the old era of Hollywood, with pinches of audible anxiety sprinkled throughout. Once again, Reznor and Ross prove why they are among the best movie score composers currently working, bringing a unique element to an expected sound, making the score almost as much of a character as Mank is.

The acting chameleon, Gary Oldman, stars as the titular Mank, and he is as good as always on screen but never amazes. This is not to say that Oldman’s performance is not outstanding, but it pales in comparison to some of his earlier work. Aside from a few scenes where he shows nuance in his emotion with immaculate acting skill, most of his other work in “Mank” consists of drunken tirades and uninspired confrontation.

On the other hand, Amanda Seyfried, who plays Marion Davies, could be considered a real acting standout of this film. Her scenes are sometimes filled with the aforementioned screenwriting fluff, but her performance is so flawlessly entertaining that it overshadows any weaknesses in the script.

Another performance worth mentioning is that of Charles Dance, whose William Randolph Hearst oozes with authority and charisma, something that the audiences have to already expect of Dance. It is a shame that Dance and Oldman only share three scenes together, but those are among the most entertaining parts of the film.

I will be honest and say that I am not the biggest fan of “Citizen Kane,” and yet it was clear to even me that “Mank” only suffers for its connection with the legendary movie. This means that even with a high level of direction, acting, costuming, cinematography and composing, the themes of “Mank” make it nothing more than an entertaining and dramatized look in the past. Even fans of old Hollywood will have to admit that this is another piece of proof that making new movies about the old magic of Hollywood only diminishes it.

3/5 stars