Gary Oldman Shines in Biopic on Citizen Kane

Bernard Sweetman, Entertainment Writer

Mank, directed by David Fincher, centers on screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz as he writes Citizen Kane, while showing his tumultuous relationship with William Randpolh Hearst, the inspiration for his story. David Fincher is a perfectionist, and it shows in this movie. Through his directing, he is able to capture the real tragedy of Mankiewicz, a remarkably talented writer who destroys every relationship he has. Fincher manages to capture the vintage Hollywood feel, while paying homage to the iconic film. 

The structure of the movie itself is a tribute to Citizen Kane, as the bulk of the movie is told through a series of flashbacks in a similar manner to Citizen Kane. This format is a bit disjointed, with some flashbacks going on for too long, and others not going on for long enough, but Fincher does his best with the script. The script, which was written by David Fincher’s father, Jack Fincher, is passable, but relies on exposition too much. There are also many times where it feels less like an homage to Citizen Kane, and more like a derivative of it. 

While Jack Fincher did a fantastic job of capturing the rapid fire dialogue that is present in many movies from the 30s and 40s, that is probably the best part of his script. The best part of the movie, though, is Gary Oldman with his great performance as Herman Mankiewicz. He plays Mankiewicz cockily and with charisma to spare, all while also showing the very human side of Mankiewicz. For this role, Oldman, who won an Oscar in 2018, could very easily get nominated again. 

Amanda Seyfried is perhaps the biggest surprise of the movie, playing Marion Davis. She effectively captures the cheery persona of her, and does a superb job of capturing the inner sadness of Davis. Besides these two the rest of the cast doesn’t have that much to do. The movie is about Mank, but the supporting characters are too one-note. Charles Dance, who I was extremely excited to see play William Randolph Hearst, was given very little to do outside of an interesting monologue. 

Mank works best as a character study, and at its core that’s what it is: a movie that centers on only one man, with everyone else merely guiding him along. Trent Reznor and Atticus Rose of the Nine Inch Nails do a tremendous job with the score of the movie. Their use of historically accurate instruments really elevates the score, and the movie itself. The cinematography of the film itself is just beautiful. The movie being in black and white, along with the score, the writing, the set design, and the sound mixing really make it feel like it is something from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Mank suffers from mediocre writing, but is brought up by strong directing and acting. It is a good movie that serves as an interesting companion piece to Citizen Kane and one cannot help but compare the two. If you have seen Citizen Kane, you should definitely watch Mank. Mank is currently available to stream on Netflix.