Mank

Critics Consensus

Sharply written and brilliantly performed, Mank peers behind the scenes of Citizen Kane to tell an old Hollywood story that could end up being a classic in its own right.

83%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 300

61%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 928

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Movie Info

1930s Hollywood is reevaluated through the eyes of scathing wit and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish "Citizen Kane."

Cast & Crew

Gary Oldman
Herman J. Mankiewicz
Amanda Seyfried
Marion Davies
Lily Collins
Rita Alexander
Tom Burke
Orson Welles
Tuppence Middleton
Sara Mankiewicz
Charles Dance
William Randolph Hearst
Tom Pelphrey
Joseph Mankiewicz
Jack Fincher
Screenwriter
Eric Roth
Producer
Erik Messerschmidt
Cinematographer
Kirk Baxter
Film Editor
Trent Reznor
Original Music
Donald Graham Burt
Production Design
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News & Interviews for Mank

Critic Reviews for Mank

All Critics (300) | Top Critics (68) | Fresh (249) | Rotten (51)

  • Mank is a love letter and a poison pen, though like much of its meticulous director's output, this film (that's not a film, though it's often made to look like one) is weighed down by the burden of time.

    December 31, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Not unlike watching Oliver Stone's JFK. It's spectacular! It's a tour du force! It's counterfactual nonsense!

    December 11, 2020 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • More than a magnificent technical achievement, Mank is hypnotically entertaining.

    December 8, 2020 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • I loved looking at it, hearing it, and the actors in it -- particularly Charles Dance... It feels like something I can study -- it just doesn't feel like something I can enjoy watching again.

    December 7, 2020 | Rating: B | Full Review…
  • Fincher's latest is a disappointing slice of Hollywood hooey.

    December 7, 2020 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…
  • It won't be for everyone. But in the canon of films about film-making, there are few as textured, as committed and as suffused with real appreciation for the craft as Mank.

    December 5, 2020 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Mank

  • Jan 07, 2021
    While ‘Mank' often piqued my interest, at no point did I find it engrossing. This puppy will leave you in the dust if you haven't an inkling of the circumstances surrounding ‘Citizen Kane's creative inception, the media strife at the time, or the players involved (fortunately, I knew enough). If the opening alone is any indication, the film suggests a narrative impression of ‘Kane' itself, yet neither the scope nor drama is substantial enough to support. Though it's initially tricky to pinpoint an emotional core, there's an appreciation to gain for the broader themes at work as ‘Mank' progresses and, naturally, the ways in which they mirror today's climate. And Christ, is it sumptuous to look at. The beauty is in the details and the ways that Fincher and his collaborative homies have mimicked the framing, conversational cadence, glow, crossfades, and back-lighting of 30's Hollywood (and again, ‘Kane' in particular) are impressively rendered through modern lenses - with the glaring exception of the recurring cigarette burns. The previously mentioned aspects translate *gorgeously* to crisp, clean HDR, yet cue marks are so unmistakably a byproduct of a bygone mechanism that they're distracting - read: trying too hard. And for some inexplicable reason, despite watching an undeniably great Gary Oldman performance, I never felt like I was truly watching Herman Mankiewicz. Curious. ‘Mank' is notably a passion project for Fincher; he pours all of his Finchy-ness into it and there is much to mine here in terms of zippy filmmaking wizardry. It's absolutely worth seeing, but I'll be revisiting it rarely.
    Marisol M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 17, 2020
    Even for younger demographics who haven't seen the classic film Citizen Kane, I feel like the majority of entertainment connoisseurs are at least aware of its existence and cultural relevance. Infamously being known as one of the greatest films to ever be released, it was only a matter of time before a film like Mank was made. Not directly about the making of Citizen Kane, but rather about the life of one man involved in the creation of it, Mank is now streaming on Netflix. Being David Fincher's latest project was enough to get me to watch it already, but I must say, even though I very much enjoyed watching it, it's absolutely one of his weakest films. That's not to say this is a bad film by any means though, because he's just that talented. Here are my thoughts on Mank. The story at hand takes place around 1939, with Herman Mackiewicz (Gary Oldman) trying to overcome his alcoholism as he attempts to write what some people will call his greatest screenplay of all time. With the help of flashbacks to the early 1930s in order to keep you invested in this otherwise thin premise, I found myself taking in the wonderful look and feel of the film, as well as the set pieces. Everything about this film feels authentic for the time period and the central performance by Gary Oldman really makes this film feel a million times better than it is. Yes, the content throughout this film is interesting, but I truly felt that there were about 30–45 minutes of amazing content in a film that's over two hours long. The slower portions of the film were still very, very admirable from a filmmaker's perspective, but I just didn't feel that there was enough meat to the story to call it a masterpiece or anything like that. That may seem like I'm going to be giving this film an average grade, but that's actually not the case. Yes, there is a very limited number of memorable moments from this movie, but I will always remember watching it for the terrific direction by David Fincher and the Black and White tone to the movie, along with the make-up, costumes, and set design. These all made for a film that left an imprint on my mind. These are also the things that most film lovers can get behind while watching Mank, even if they aren't immersed in the film for its story. I wasn't blown away by the content presented here, but I did appreciate learning some behind-the-scenes information about a film that's nearly eight decades old.  I think Netflix was the absolute best place for a movie like this to end up in today's day, simply because I believe it would not have reached a wide audience. This is a very niche film in terms of how invested the average moviegoer can be. If you haven't seen Citizen Kane or at least know certain aspects about that film, there will be revelations toward the end of Mank that don't seem all that important. I knew what certain characters were talking about, but only because I've seen Citizen Kane. It's hard for a film like this to garner the attention of a new audience, especially when the backbone is of a film as old as Citizen Kane.  Overall, Fincher has made some of my favourites films over the last 10–20 years, so I will always be eagerly awaiting his next project. For me, Mank was one of his weakest outings because it felt the least like his style. That's not usually a bad thing, but I feel that his director's touch is very much present throughout all of his projects, until this one. Yes, the elegance of direction is there and everything about this film is top-notch in terms of garnering awards and things like that, but it just didn't have enough to warrant a best picture nomination, at least in my eyes. I really enjoyed watching Mank for what it was, but I wish the film had a lot more to offer in terms of story. Still, it's a great watch for film lovers and if you were someone who has knowledge of the film Citizen Kane, I absolutely recommend checking it out.
    KJ P Super Reviewer
  • Dec 09, 2020
    In 2003, director Peyton Reed (Ant-Man, Bring it On) recreated the "no-sex sex comedies" of the 1960 starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson, with Down with Love. It recreated not just that era in time but also the hokey filmmaking techniques of its time, including green screen for rear projection as the characters drive. It was a big homage to older Hollywood and a celebration of its outdated filmmaking and storytelling. But was the movie ever more than one elaborate homage? Did the film have any other reason for being than imitation? What about Gus van Sant's shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock's Psycho? This is what I thought of as I watched David Fincher's highly anticipated new movie, Mank, a surefire awards contender about Herman Mankiewicz as he writes early drafts of his career masterpiece, Citizen Kane. Fincher goes to a lot of trouble to recreate the look, feel, and sound of Mank's creative era, but by the end I had one clear summation in mind: Mank is David Fincher's Down with Love. Herman "Mank" Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) is washed up and he knows it. It's 1940 and he's worn out his welcome at the movie studios he used to be a screenwriting titan, heading story departments and adding witty, sardonic patter to dozens of studio pictures. He was a favored guest of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) and a friend to his wife Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), an actress who got a boost from her high-profile marriage. Now he's on the outs of the industry that has grown tired of his antics. Enter 24-year-old radio wunderkind Orson Welles (Tom Burke) who personally wants to work with Mank. Welles has been given full creative control for his feature film debut and wants to make something big. He tasks Mank with writing the first draft and Mank turns to the people he knows best to skewer. I was not expecting my blasé reaction to a Fincher film. It's his first movie in 6 years (Gone Girl) and I think maybe his least compelling movie of his career. I'm not going to say that The Game or Panic Room are more artistic movies than Mank, steeped in the Hollywood studio system and lovingly recreating a faded era of big wigs and big mouths. However, I will resolutely claim that either The Game or Panic Room are more entertaining. I doubt I'll ever watch Mank again in my life. Thanks to the convenience of Netflix streaming, I watched the 130-minute movie over the course of two days but I was starting and stopping throughout. At one point I found myself zoning out and realized I had missed the importance of the scene and had to rewind to watch again. Dear reader, this was not my expected response at all. Why did I find the movie so lackluster? I think it comes down to the fact that it doesn't really give you any more insight into Mank, the old studio bosses, the life and allure of filmmaking, the ascending new industry of motion pictures and their prevailing cultural dominance, or even on Hearst or intriguing behind the scenes struggles with Kane. You're just witness to history and not actively digesting and assessing it. In all honesty, you would be better off watching the Oscar-winning documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane or the underseen 1999 HBO TV movie RKO 281 (starring Liev Schireber as Welles and John Malkovich as Mank). Either of those two other movies would give you better intrigue and insight into the men and their legacies. The character of Mank comes across so superficially like he's just a catty, booze-soaked genius who is only good for a cutting retort and vomiting on your floor. I cannot state enough how uninteresting the character of Herman Mankiewicz comes across during this movie. He's exactly the same from beginning to end and it gets rather tiresome. Even his first moments, where every dialogue response has to be pithy or setting up a later pithy remark, can grow tiresome. It's as if Fincher has made Mank one of his own characters in one of his own movies. He's certainly not an unblemished protagonist. He has all manner of self-control problems, from his drinking to his mouth to his gambling to his general impulsivity. There should be drama here especially as he composes what every character tells him is "the best thing you've ever written." I think part of the reason that I never really warmed to this character is that it never feels like anything really matters to him. Sure, he has his liberal values and trumpets causes and spats but I didn't feel like I ever really knew Mank as an actual person. He's too flippant, too passing, and too pleased to remain that way that spending an entire movie with this portrayal becomes exasperating. The screenplay by Jack Fincher (the late father of the director) jumps back and forth between the framing device of Mank being cooped up in 1940 and writing Kane and his earlier experiences in Tinsel Town through the 1930s. The framing device is unnecessary and boring. Mank's relationship with the personal secretary (Lily Collins) tasked to write his dictation is just a dull storytelling device, another person in the room to give Mank a foil to launch his wit, and also, naturally, to remind him just how great a writer he can be. The 1940 Mank doesn't feel like he's gained any more wisdom or remorse.  The flashbacks, accompanied by typewriter screenplay headlines, never fully coalesce into a clearer picture of the times. There is a lengthy subplot involving muckraking writer Upton Sinclair (literally played by Bill Nye "The Science Guy") running for California governor, but all it does is establish that the studio heads are on one side of the ideological spectrum and Mank is on the other. There's some conflict, yes, for him to continue working with these fat cats, the antithesis of his socialist politics, but it's such a lengthy segment that I kept waiting for more relevance or life lessons. Then there's a guy who might or might not kill himself and I'm supposed to care. The screenplay feels more like a series of anecdotes that jumps around a bit too much to really offer an insightful portrait of its star. It also doesn't help matters that Fincher's film is part revisionist fantasy about the creation of Kane. This discredited theory stems from film critic Pauline Kael's 1971 book, Raising Kane, where she proposed that it was solely Markiewicz and not Welles who wrote Citizen Kane. That is true…. for the first two drafts. There were five drafts afterwards leading to production. It's very true that much of the sturdy foundations were laid in place from Mank and his connections to Hearst and Davies (though Mank swore his portrayal of Davies was not intended to be her but the media version of her). It's also true that Welles would shape and revise what Mank had begun and improve upon an already great start. There are plenty of articles to be read to better educate on the subject, or you can watch The Battle Over Citizen Kane, but the idea that Welles wanted to steal unearned credit and that Mank is some artistic martyr has not held up to decades of re-evaluation after Kael's initial publication. There really is an interesting story how many ground-breaking rules Welles and Mank and cinematographer Gregg Tolland broke to tell their great American movie, and how revolutionary the movie was and continues to be so modern. You don't have to resort to revisionist fantasy to tell the story of Mank and Kane, especially when the portrayal of Mankiewicz isn't exactly notable to engender my passionate outrage. Another bizarre choice is that Mank sidesteps the real blowback from Citizen Kane. Hearst was a powerful man and using his considerable influence to sabotage the movie. RKO Pictures was offered a sum to sell the film and bury it so it would never be seen. Hearst used his newspaper empire to discredit and defame Welles and his collaborators, but the genius of their work was too much to ignore and was nominated for nine Academy Awards in 1941 including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. It lost to How Green Was My Valley (the Crash of its day) and only won a single category, Best Original Screenplay. To turn the opposition against Hearst and the powerful mechanisms of capitalism into a squabble with Welles over sole ownership of a collaborative work just seems petty and insulting. Again, there is real drama and real backlash to Kane's domestic release. Welles was never given complete control again and Mankiewicz faded back into alcoholic obscurity and eventually died in 1953 at age 55. There was much more that Mank could have gone into as a film and yet it just dragged through scene after scene of characters entering rooms, saying pithy remarks, and exiting rooms. More was required. Oldman (Darkest Hour) is a reliable actor and can be enjoyable as Mank but he's also victim to the overall tone and limited characterization. His performance is too smirky and self-satisfied, like the character knows he's going to serve up the perfect one-liner waiting in his mouth at every turn. It's also a little weird that Oldman is even older than Mank was after he died but Mank's wife (Tuppence Middleton), who was the exact same age of Mank, is played by a woman almost 30 years younger than Oldman. I see some things from the old system still remain. I thought the two best actors in the movie were Dance (HBO's Game of Thrones) as Hearst and Seyfried (First Reformed) as his wife, Marion Davies. Dance very much is modeling Hearst like a living king holding court, and Mank is his favorite jester, and the malevolent authority just under the surface is always noticeable, always on the cusp, a powerful man ready to act upon his power. Seyfried gets to reclaim Davies as a character and showcase her not just as a smart actress, who would act "dumb and silly" when she got ahead of herself with Hearst, but as a loving and supportive spouse. She's goofy, humble, loyal, but also multi-dimensional, far more than the low-class, lonely opera singer Charles Foster Kane destroys his marriage over that she represented. If anyone deserves to be nominated for an Oscar for Mank, it's Seyfried and the way she can breathe depth and life so brightly into her role. Give the tremendous filmmaking pedigree of Fincher, there are obvious technical pleasures to admire. Mank is a stunning recreation of the old studio system, and there is an enjoyment simply watching this world come back to vivid life. The costumes and lavish production design are impressive. Knowing how mercurial Fincher can be as an artist, whenever you're watching a crowd scene, I think about how long it took to stage every specific element. Fincher is rarely rivaled as a big screen visual stylist with his compositions and camera movements. There's a gorgeous montage where Mank awaits the gubernatorial election returns and the imagery comes together like a Renaissance painting, reminding the viewer why Fincher made such a name for himself as a music video director in the 80s and 90s. Fincher also adopts many of the technical style of Mank's era including a sound design that sounds like it's crackling and humming constantly and "cigarette burns" in the top corner to denote reel changes. Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor produce a score that is jaunty, jazzy, and period appropriate, a big detour from their ominous, fuzzy, electronic-heavy scores we associate with them. It's a whole lot of effort to make a painstaking homage of an older era but what does the movie offer outside of this homage? I don't think much. If you're a fan of Old Hollywood and Citizen Kane, you may get more out of Mank, but if you're looking for insight and entertainment into the men and the movies beyond stylistic imitation, retreat to the real deal. Nate's Grade: B-
    Nate Z Super Reviewer
  • Dec 05, 2020
    A half remember, half fabricated tale of old Hollywood. What it lacks in historical accuracy, it makes up for in countless interesting idiosyncrasies. Also, I appreciate the movie's refusal to explain any of the obscure references to the lay viewer.
    Alec B Super Reviewer

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