Mank: Netflix Film Review

Mank

Having David Fincher‘s name attached to a project is usually a promising sign. I love several of his movies and had high expectations about his latest one, Mank, but I came away from it pretty disappointed. 

Based on a screenplay by Fincher’s late father Jack, Mank tells the story of Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), who was hired to write the script for Orson Welles’ 1941 classic Citizen Kane. The main action takes place in 1940 when the alcoholic tries to write the script without his booze and is laid up in bed in a cast following a car accident. There are also many flashbacks throughout the early 1930s which illustrate Mank’s friendship with publisher William Rudolph Hearst (Charles Dance) and his partner, actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), who are said to be the inspiration for the main characters in Citizen Kane. 

The drama surrounding Citizen Kane, from Welles’ and Mank’s dispute over the writing credit to Hearst’s response to the movie, is real-life material ripe for a movie portrayal and I would have found that version of the story fascinating. But Mank doesn’t tell the story I was expecting it to. I was thinking it was going to portray the writing of it, the credit dispute and then perhaps the making of it and the fallout. But it focuses more on Mank himself, and, perhaps more surprisingly, studio system politics and a 1934 California gubernatorial election. I would have much preferred the focus to have been on Mank and Citizen Kane, not the rest of it. 

Mank is all over the place, and it’s very hard to keep track of the timeline of events and who’s who because it jumps around a lot. This film features so many famous faces from Old Hollywood and it assumes the viewer knows who everyone is, so I had to spend some time Googling (the beauty of watching at home) so I could grasp what was going on, and even then, I still had trouble remembering who someone was the next time they came back onscreen. 

I can appreciate Mank in certain respects though. It is a very ambitious movie, with a stunning black-and-white look, and Fincher had a clear vision that he executed well. There are some big get-together scenes which stand out as being particularly enjoyable and interesting to watch. And then there are the performances. Oldman gives an impressive performance as Mank and convinces as someone who is basically drunk all the time. But the star of the show was easily Seyfried, who is magnetic and captivating as the blonde bombshell Davies. She is the heart of the piece and had a vivacious, sparkly presence that injected life into every scene she’s in. They are a few more recognisable faces in this from Lily Collins as Mank’s secretary Rita Alexander, Tuppence Middleton as his wife Sara, and Tom Burke as Welles. The latter casting makes no sense – Burke is 39 when Welles was 25 in 1940. 

I could appreciate Fincher’s vision but Mank doesn’t work for me. I didn’t care about or connect with the story or the characters and I was never engrossed in it. I would maybe like it more on a second watch as I now understand the chronology of events and who everyone is, but I won’t be doing that any time soon – Mank is hard to follow and sometimes dull and ends as the real-life drama gets interesting. 

In selected cinemas now and on Netflix from Friday 4th December 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Laundromat: Film Review

I was really gutted when The Laundromat press screening was scheduled for after I left Venice this year – I love Steven Soderbergh and the cast he’s assembled – but it turns out I didn’t miss much at all. The Laundromat is a proper misfire.

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My pictures from the 2018 BAFTAs

Timothee Chalamet

Last night, I had the privilege of attending the BAFTAs and I was on both the red carpet and in the winners’ press conference room, and you can see all the pictures I took below.

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Top Films for January

It’s not just the start of a new month this time – it’s also the start of a new year! For this special version of my monthly movie preview, I look at what’s due for release in the UK in January 2018.

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What I learned from Anthony McCarten’s BAFTA Screenwriters’ Lecture

Anthony McCarten, who wrote the scripts for The Theory of Everything and the upcoming Darkest Hour, recently came to BAFTA’s headquarters in Piccadilly, London to give a lecture about his approach to screenwriting.

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard: Film Review 

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is one of those films that are so difficult to review because you just don’t know what to make of it. It is so thoroughly inconsistent – great one minute and really bad the next – that is really is a headscratcher.

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Churchill: Film Review

We’ve recently seen Winston Churchill in The Crown, played by the award-winning John Lithgow and will we soon see him again in Darkest Hour, where he is portrayed by Gary Oldman. So do we need another one in the meantime? Well, probably not, but at least in Churchill we are presented with a different moment in time and an impressive performance by Brian Cox.

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The Space Between Us: Film Review

Courtesy of STX Entertainment

I love a sci-fi and I love a teen romance story so The Space Between Us seemed like the perfect combination. I love Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino and think Asa Butterfield is very cute so it’s a shame this movie is a bit too sentimental and a massive cheese fest.

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Criminal: Film Review

Kevin Costner’s latest action thriller is batshit crazy and unintentionally hilarious but so completely entertaining, mostly at its own expense.

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Top Films For July

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BEGIN AGAIN

Keira Knightley stars as an English singer/songwriter who no longer wants to live in New York as she has split from her unfaithful boyfriend (Maroon 5’s Adam Levine in his movie debut). The night before she flies home, she is forced to sing at an open mic, where music producer Mark Ruffalo happens to be. I have seen this – It is a wonderful, feel-good film with a great soundtrack. The review will be coming shortly. Released: 11th July

 

Boyhood

BOYHOOD

This looks incredible. Director and writer Richard Linklater shot this over 12 years using the same cast. Beginning in 2002, it follows a boy growing up with divorced parents. It is just a unique way of showing him evolving from a boy into a man. Reviews from its rounds on the Festival circuit have been impressive too. Released: 11th July

 

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DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

I really liked Rise of the Planet of the Apes so I have to see how this continues. This begins 10 years later, after the virus was released and it has wiped out most of civilization, which is at war with the intelligent apes, lead by Caesar (Andy Serkis). It is a shame that neither James Franco or Freida Pinto returned for this but we have the lovely Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke (above) and Keri Russell as leads instead. Released: 17th July

 

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EARTH TO ECHO

This looks like a cute family film in the vein of E.T. A group of four friends find an alien and help it return home. That does not sound particularly original but the reviews have been positive and the found footage style will give it a modern update. Released: 25th July

 

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

The next instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unlikely superhero lead Chris Pratt stars as Peter Quill, who finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan. To hide from Ronan, he must team up with a group of misfits including a green alien, a humanoid and a talking racoon. Weird, but hey, it’s Marvel and it needs to be seen! Released: 31st July