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‘Mank’ is a well made disappointment

  David Fincher has proven to be an incredible director — and one of the best of all time.  He’s become my third favorite director, beating out Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Christopher Nolan. I love the dark, grimy tone that he brings to his projects as he captures a darker side of human nature that many other directors haven’t. He’s explored these dark themes in many of his films — including Fight Club, The Social Network, and Seven — giving his films a style that stands out. Hearing that Netflix picked up his latest film was exciting, especially since his last film, Gone Girl, came out seven years ago.
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Mank is based on the true story of the making of Citizen Kane and the intense struggle Herman J. Mankiewicz went through making it. Taking place during 1930s Hollywood, the film does an incredible job replicating the filmmaking style of the period. From the performances, cinematography, and the film being in black and white, you truly feel like you’re watching a movie made in the 1930s. However, this didn’t make the film as great as it could have been.

Back to the past

Everything from how the film is shot, the performances, and even the dialogue all make it feel like it belongs in a different era. This style makes for an incredible experience as you’re watching actors like Gary Oldman and Lily Collins give performances they’ve never given before as they portray actors during that period. The set designs and costumes all perfectly capture that time. There are small moments in the film that might have come off cheesy — similar to his other films — but help to continue the feeling that you’re watching an older film. For example, early on in the movie, a car crash scene is shot and edited in style represented in older films. This style of filmmaking easily could have turned south quickly but is handled incredibly well by all those involved. Sadly, this is where it ends for the film.

Golden Age of Hollywood

Because the film focuses on emulating classic Hollywood, the film feels distant for someone unfamiliar with the time. It’s filled with film lure and political issues from the 1930s, so those not familiar with it may become confused. Along with this, viewers familiar with older films, such as Citizen Kane, will have a better understanding of the topics discussed. Comparing this to a recent film like Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood, that movie did a similar thing by bringing a love story to classic Hollywood; however, it didn’t keep its audience at a distance by focusing so heavily on feeling like a product of that time. It contained many throwbacks to the 1960s but did so in a way that didn’t compromise the story or the characters. 
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Mank also suffers from having relatable characters. The performances were great, and everyone did an incredible job; yet, the way they were written made you unable to understand them. They’re all dealing with and talking about things from that specific time in a way that assumes you understand everything that’s being discussed. Due to this, modern-day film fans may become confused if they lack knowledge of films during the 30s and 40s. Overall, Fincher did an incredible job directing the film as he made it feel like it was made during a different time. However, this film makes a drastic departure from his usual style and tone. Similar to how The Curious Case of Benjamin Button wasn’t like anything he’d done up to that point, Mank is another turn for his career but lacked his signature style. Fincher has been able to push the limits with edgy films like Seven and Fight Club without crossing the line too far. Mank has dark tones, such as the main character being an alcoholic, but these dark elements didn’t feel like they impacted the film overall like some of his other works. There didn’t appear to be a clear tone for the film either, and the style didn’t feel like Fincher’s. This could be because Fincher was trying to recreate a style from Citizens Kane or another film from that time, but it still felt strange to not see his voice come across during the movie.
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