“Mank” is an absolutely delightful throwback.
Working off a script from his late father, Jack, director David Fincher has crafted a spectacular bio pic that is a love letter to the golden age of Hollywood with a first-rate cast.
Gary Oldman plays the title character, screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, who as the film begins is in seclusion at his California ranch recovering from a car accident.
Mankiewicz’s days as the toast of Hollywood have long passed, with years of drinking and self-destructive behavior leading him to be outcast by studios and filmmakers. He is given one more chance at glory by young filmmaker Orson Welles (Tom Burke) – who asked him to help him with a script that would eventually become “Citizen Kane.”
As Mankiewicz works to complete the script, Fincher uses flashbacks to show us the writer’s rise and fall in Hollywood.
Fincher and cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt give this an old-school feel by filming it in black and white (the result is gorgeous) while the wonderful score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross feels like it was pulled straight from the era the film showcases.
Oldman completely disappears into the role of Mankiewicz, cementing his status as one of the best actors working today. It’s a performance full of reflection that allows Oldman to showcase his range. He commands your attention every moment he is on screen.
But Oldham’s performance is at its best when he goes toe-to-toe with a pair of supporting roles from Lilly Collins and Amanda Seyfried that really give “Mank” its heart and soul.
Collins plays Mankiewicz’s British secretary Rita Alexander, given the difficult task of keeping him focused on his work. Collins brings this strong-willed woman to life with such ease that in almost any other film it would be the standout performance.
Yet in “Mank,” even Collins’ awards-worthy work takes a back seat to Seyfried’s career-best work as Marion Daviess – the actress who developed a friendship with Mankiewicz. Daviess was one of the biggest draws in Hollywood, but by the time she met Mankiewicz her career was on the downturn. Seyfried captures the plight of her character perfectly, a woman who appeared cheery and happy but understood how the system worked – and how her days of stardom were numbered.
It’s a melancholy piece of work from Seyfried that captures the essence of “Mank” – a celebration of Hollywood that is one of 2020’s best films to date.