Hollywood loves watching movies about Hollywood.
Especially when it’s honoring the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Films like “The Artist,” “La La Land,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” or “Hugo,” we see Oscar voters continually giving nominations or wins to movies about movies. And, yes, it gets old sometimes.
But rarely do we see movie about Old Hollywood done with some cynicism and style as “Mank,” the new Netflix exclusive by director David Fincher. Not only is it set in the 1930s, but it looks, sounds and feels like a movie from the 1930s era. Yes, it’s filmed in black and white but the lighting reminds you of films from those days. It reminds you of a great film noir classic but it’s made in 2020.
“Mank” tells the story of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his development of the script for “Citizen Kane,” the classic film directed by Orson Welles in 1941. “Citizen Kane” is often rated as the greatest film ever made, even though it lost Best Picture at the Oscars to “How Green Was My Valley,” an incredibly boring movie I watched for the first time recently. And there’s been debate for years about who actually wrote the screenplay for “Citizen Kane”: was it Mankiewicz or Welles?
Gary Oldman, a recent Oscar winner for “The Darkest Hour,” gives maybe the best performance of his career in the lead role — and that’s saying something. Amanda Seyfried is wonderful in a small role as Marion Davies and Charles Dance (“Game of Thrones” “The Crown”) kills it as William Randolph Hearst.
It’s a movie that’s heavy on dialogue and light on actually plot but that’s OK. The language is beautifully written and it explores interesting ideas about life, legacy, politics, power and more. The conversations about socialism feel very relevant to today’s conversations.
The movie was written in the 1990s by Jack Fincher, the father of David Fincher. He meant to direct the movie after he made “The Game” in 1997 with Kevin Spacey in the lead role but it never came to fruition and his father died in 2003.
Fincher finally produced and directed his late father’s screenplay which will end up being his only work that was made into a movie. And he might have a chance to win a posthumous Oscar. It’s really well written.
Ultimately “Mank” is a love letter to all writers out there the power of the written word. It’s about how writers can change the world.
And it feels especially personal for Fincher considering his father wrote it.
Fincher has not directed a movie sine 2014’s “Gone Girl,” focusing on TV shows instead, such as “Mindhunter.” But Fincher’s record as a director is nearly flawless.
In his nearly 30-year career, he’s directed only 11 films and the only bad one is his first movie ever, “Alien 3” in 1992.
After that he has: “Seven” (1995), “The Game” (1997), “Fight Club” (1999), “Panic Room” (2002), “Zodiac” (2007), “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008), “The Social Network” (2010), “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011), “Gone Girl” (2014) and now “Mank.”
Two of his movies (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Social Network”) earned him Best Picture and Best Director nominations and several of his other movies are considered classics. Personally my favorite is “Zodiac.”
I fully expect Fincher to add another Best Picture and Director nomination to his resume with “Mank.”