Mank is the story of Herman J. Mankiewicz writing the script for Orson Welles’ Citizen Cane. It is the ultimate Oscar bate, a story from Hollywood about an under-appreciated part of Hollywood set in the golden era of Hollywood. If you love Hollywood, especially in the 1930s this is probably a great movie, if not, this may be a pass.
Gary Oldman portrays Herman J. Mankiewicz. Oldman is 62, Mank was 44 when he wrote Citizen Cane. A lot of the movie features flashbacks to when Mank would have been in his thirties. Maybe it is time to stop giving every role to Gary Oldman and cast someone of a more appropriate age. Oldman's performance is fine as we have come to expect, but it is otherwise unremarkable. Amanda Seyfried plays Marion Davies, William Randolph Hearst’s mistress. Hearst, the inspiration for Citizen Cane, is played by Charles Dance. The most surprising casting is Bill Nye, the science guy, as Upton Sinclair.
The movie has a lot of studio and California politics. Upton Sinclair ran for governor of California in 1934 as a Democrat and was universally opposed by studio heads. This features prominently in the film and seems to be part of the inspiration for Mank to target Hearst with his screenplay. If this does not sound interesting to you in the least, then go ahead and skip the film.
The movie is shot in black and white to make it look like a period piece from the time. It is not that distracting, but in a few scenes, I would have loved to see the wonderful colors of the costumes. The choice to shoot black and white feels like another attempt to target the Academy of Motion Pictures and tug on their affection for themselves.
I had a hard time paying attention throughout the movie. I could not find much chemistry between Seyfried and Oldman. The subject matter was very boring as well. I am not interested in old school studio run productions with staff actors. Independent films are more accessible today because of the democratization of Hollywood. Hollywood should not be the center of the cinematic universe and I like supporting new writers, directors, and actors. I do not need to spend my time watching something that tries to glorify a part of the industry that has been disrupted for the better. This film is for golden-age film buffs and not many others.