In his first film since Gone Girl and his first for a premium streaming service, David Fincher charts a fascinating landscape through film and politics back in Old Hollywood.
His Mank is often an expert evaluation like a pristine restored print (subtly marked with cigarette burns) in chronicling two eras in the Great Depression and early World War II.
Through a softer resolution of splendid monochromatic lensing, a transporting into the making of the prominently prolific Citizen Kane is fashioned with authenticity as the ‘talkie’ commenced.
A theatrical experienced is enhanced from the start with the sound of big bands resonating from composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Add the aforementioned camerawork by Erik Messerschmidt, not to mention Jan Pascale’s set design and Trish Summerville’s costuming the canvas is all set for Fincher and his late dad Jack’s screenplay of a magnum opus to take flight.
Maybe for those not into TCM event that a prestigious RKO Radio Pictures could present this look at how past can reflect present might keep them at a further remove than the establishment of celebrity Cana reach.
Yet, with the eponymous Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) as a jaded, often inebriated reporter turned scribe for wunderkind Orson Welles (an uncanny Tom Burke) the experiences of the former are imbued from a less prominent shadow.
Left bedridden after a car accident leaves Mank beholden to his trusty assistant Rita (Lily Collins) to make deadline for the script. Fincher has a gusto for the Hollywood machine that flourished as pop’s narrative shifts timeframes to stress what brought his work to fruition. Not in an idealized reimagining of film history, however. The important figures were newspapers magnate William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) and his actress mistress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried).
From stranded in the desert to a nation co[ping with a major crisis, parties at Hearst Castle are countered to downsizing and pay cuts in order to fill movie houses for the elite. As a result technicians have to turn to panhandling when relieved of their studio work.
The volatility of a lush like Mankiewicz (whose younger brother Joe would make the likes of All About Eve and Cleopatra) arrives in stentorian form by Oldman (who made Winston Churchill boom in Darkest Hour). An infectiously plucky Davies is endowed with earnest commitment by a never-better Seyfried. Her Pungent wit goes a long way to showcase her scenes translated from the character’s screen presence to make moments with her older co-star shine.
How Mank is viewed and the mind flexed through the lead-up to what was to become more cherished long after its release which speaks to political ideologies and sonorous deliveries is an ambitious and nostalgically distinctive return for Fincher.