Mank

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Mank
Mank.png
Official release poster
Directed byDavid Fincher
Produced by
Written byJack Fincher
Starring
Music by
CinematographyErik Messerschmidt
Edited byKirk Baxter
Production
companies
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • November 13, 2020 (2020-11-13) (United States)
Running time
131 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$25 million[3]
Box office$99,752[4]

Mank is a 2020 American biographical drama film about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his development of the screenplay for Citizen Kane (1941). Directed by David Fincher, based on a screenplay by his late father Jack Fincher, the film was produced by Ceán Chaffin, Douglas Urbanski, and Eric Roth. It stars Gary Oldman in the title role, alongside Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tom Pelphrey, Sam Troughton, Ferdinand Kingsley, Tuppence Middleton, Tom Burke, Joseph Cross, Jamie McShane, Toby Leonard Moore, Monika Gossmann, and Charles Dance.

David Fincher's father Jack Fincher wrote the script in the 1990s, and David originally intended to film it after he completed The Game (1997), with Kevin Spacey and Jodie Foster as the leads. It never came to fruition, and Jack Fincher died in 2003. Eventually, the project was officially announced in July 2019, and filming took place around Los Angeles from November 2019 to February 2020.[5]

Mank had a limited theatrical release on November 13, 2020, and began streaming on Netflix on December 4. The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised its direction, acting (particularly Oldman and Seyfried), cinematography, and production values. It received a leading-six nominations at the 78th Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture – Drama.[6]

Plot[edit]

In 1940, Orson Welles is given complete creative freedom for his next project by RKO. For the screenplay, Welles recruits Herman J. Mankiewicz, who is in Victorville, California recovering from a broken leg he sustained in a car accident. Herman dictates the script to his secretary, Rita Alexander, who notices similarities between the main character and William Randolph Hearst. Producer John Houseman is concerned about Herman's dense, nonlinear screenplay, while Herman's brother Joseph worries that it may anger the powerful Hearst.

In 1930, Herman visits an MGM location where he and the female lead, Marion Davies, recognize each other. She introduces him to Hearst, her benefactor and lover, who takes a liking to Herman. In 1933, Herman and his wife Sara attend Louis B. Mayer's birthday party at Hearst Castle with many Hollywood bigwigs. They discuss the rise of Nazi Germany and the upcoming gubernatorial election, in particular candidate Upton Sinclair. Herman and Marion go for a stroll, where they bond over discussions on politics and the film industry.

In 1940, Houseman grows impatient over Herman's lack of progress. Rita is also concerned with the timing of the writing, as well as Herman's alcoholism. Herman eventually finishes the screenplay in time. Houseman is impressed but reminds Herman that he will receive no credit for his work.

In 1934, Herman and Joseph begin working at MGM under Mayer. Studio executives, including Irving Thalberg, actively work against Sinclair's gubernatorial campaign. The studio produces propaganda films for a smear campaign, funded by Hearst, against Sinclair. Herman approaches Marion to get the films pulled, but is unsuccessful as she has already left the studio for Warner Brothers. Herman and Sara later attend an election night watch party at the Trocadero Nightclub, where Mayer announces the winner, Frank Merriam. Herman's colleague, director Shelly Metcalf, shoots and kills himself after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and guilt-ridden over his role in the smear campaign, in spite of personally supporting Sinclair.

In 1940, Charles Lederer picks up the screenplay from Herman to deliver to the studio. Joseph visits Herman after reading the screenplay and warns him of Hearst's reaction and how it might affect Marion. He does, however, believe that it's the finest thing Herman has ever written. Marion also visits and does her best to persuade Herman to change the screenplay but to no avail. She tells Herman she will try to stop the picture from getting made.

In 1937, Herman crashes a party at Hearst Castle, where he drunkenly pitches the idea for the film he will go on to write in 1940, offending everyone present including Hearst, Mayer and Marion. An enraged Mayer reveals that Herman is on Hearst's payroll and calls him a court jester. Hearst tells him an allegory about a monkey and an organ grinder and sees him out.

In 1940, despite pressure from Hearst, Welles is determined to make the film and intends to do a re-write without Herman. He visits Herman and offers him a buyout from the studio. However, reneging on the terms of his contract, Herman requests credit for the script, declaring it his greatest work. An upset Welles tells Herman that he has gone to bat for him, before leaving angrily. Herman ultimately receives joint credit with Welles, and the two win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film two years later.

Cast[edit]

Many other Hollywood icons are portrayed, including George S. Kaufman, Greta Garbo, Josef von Sternberg, Norma Shearer, Eleanor Boardman, Joan Crawford, Charlie Chaplin, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Billie Dove, Rexford Tugwell, Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Charles MacArthur, Darryl F. Zanuck, S.J. Perelman, Carole Lombard, and Eddie Cantor.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Gary Oldman who stars as the title role, Herman J. "Mank" Mankiewicz

Mank was officially announced in July 2019, when David Fincher said he would direct the film, with Gary Oldman set to star. The screenplay was written by Fincher's father, Jack Fincher, prior to his death in 2003. It was originally going to be Fincher's follow-up to The Game (1997) with Kevin Spacey and Jodie Foster set to star but never came to fruition due to Fincher's insistence on shooting in black-and-white.[5][9] Additional casting was announced in October, with Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tuppence Middleton, Arliss Howard, and Charles Dance among the new cast added.[10]

Fincher reunites with much of his usual filmmaking team, including production designer Donald Graham Burt, editor Kirk Baxter, and composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, using only period-authentic instruments. Fincher opted for cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt, with whom he worked on his Netflix series Mindhunter.[11][12][13]

Writing[edit]

The 120-page draft of the initial script revealed that Jack Fincher closely followed a claim voiced by Pauline Kael in her 1971 New Yorker article Raising Kane that Welles did not deserve screenwriting credit.[14] The article angered many critics, including Welles's friend and fellow filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich who rebutted Kael's claims point by point in "The Kane Mutiny", an October 1972 article for Esquire.[15] Her argument was discredited by several film scholars through the years, including Robert L. Carringer in his study of "The Scripts of Citizen Kane."[16] Mank producer Eric Roth reportedly polished the script prior to filming,[17] with David Fincher saying he felt early drafts were too anti-Welles.[18] When asked about the controversy surrounding authorship, Fincher stated that his movie does not aim to settle the issue: "It was not my interest to make a movie about a posthumous credit arbitration. I was interested in making a movie about a man who agreed not to take any credit. And who then changed his mind. That was interesting to me."[19]

Filming[edit]

David Fincher, director of Mank.

Filming began on November 1, 2019, in Los Angeles.[20] It also took place in Victorville, California, and wrapped on February 4, 2020.[21] The film was shot in black and white on Fincher's preferred RED digital camera, and referenced the aesthetics of Citizen Kane cinematographer Gregg Toland.[22] Dance stated that a scene involving a drunken Mankiewicz took over 100 takes,[23] while Seyfried said that one of her scenes took over a week and 200 takes to shoot.[24] She stated, "It does feel like Groundhog Day, in a way, but that's how [Fincher] captures things that most people don't."[23] The moonlight stroll between Mankiewicz and Davies was filmed at Huntington Gardens and a Pasadena mansion during the day, although it takes place at night. This was done using the old "day for night" technique. Shooting it during the day was necessary for the lighting Messerschmidt needed for the scene.[22]

Costume design[edit]

For designing the costumes, costume designer Trish Summerville and production designer Donald Graham Burt used the noir and monochromatic filters on their iPhones to see how they would look in black and white. Because the film was shot in black and white and not converted afterwards, it meant Summerville had to pick colors that would pop. She looked at photos from 1930s Hollywood to see what was worn at the time.[25]

Music[edit]

Fincher's frequent collaborators Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross composed the score for Mank. Forgoing their usual synth-heavy style, Reznor and Ross used period-authentic instrumentation from the 1940s to accompany the film.[26] As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, each member of the orchestra recorded their sections for the score from home.[27] The entire soundtrack is composed of songs written and performed by Reznor and Ross and runs for 52 tracks at over an hour and a half.[28][29] There is also an extended version that runs over three hours with 87 tracks.[29]

Mank: Original Musical Score track listing[30]
No.TitleLength
1."Welcome to Victorville"2:15
2."Trapped!"1:17
3."All This Time"2:01
4."Enter Menace"0:48
5."First Dictation"2:22
6."A Fool's Paradise"1:33
7."Once More Unto the Breach"2:05
8."About Something"0:54
9."Glendale Station"1:16
10."What's at Stake?"0:53
11."Every Thing You Do"3:01
12."Cowboys and Indians"1:20
13."Presumed Lost"1:09
14."(If Only You Could) Save Me"3:18
15."Means of Escape"0:49
16."All this Time (A White Parasol)"0:34
17."M.G.M."2:51
18."A Respectable Bribe"1:03
19."I, Governor of California"1:32
20."A Leaden Silence"0:54
21."San Simeon Waltz"4:55
22."Time Running Out"0:44
23."Mank-heim"1:24
24."Lend Me a Buck?"1:20
25."You Wanted to See Me?"1:03
26."In Your Arms Agian"3:18
27."The Dark Night of the Soul"1:09
28."Clouds Gather"0:13
29."Way Back When"3:19
30."An Idea Takes Hold"3:40
31."Marion's Exit"3:18
32."Absolution"1:05
33."Scenes from Election Night"4:23
34."Election Night-mare"1:31
35."All This Time (Dance Interrupted)"1:01
36."All This Time (Victorious)"1:12
37."I'm Eve"0:32
38."A Rare Bird"2:10
39."Look at What We Did"2:30
40."Menace Returns"0:33
41."Forgive Me"2:15
42."Final Regards"1:11
43."Where Else Would I Be?"1:04
44."The Organ Grinder"1:52
45."All This Time (Not No More)"1:13
46."Costume Party"1:10
47."Dulcinea"0:37
48."Shoot-out at the OK Corral"1:42
49."The Organ Grinder's Monkey"2:24
50."The Act of Purging Violence"0:38
51."All This Time (Happily Ever After)"2:26
52."A Rare Bird (Reprise)"4:45
Total length:1:32:32

[28][29][31]

Release[edit]

Mank was released in a limited theatrical release in the United States on November 13, 2020,[18] before beginning to stream worldwide on Netflix on December 4, 2020.[2]

IndieWire reported the film played in 75 theaters during its opening weekend and did "similar business" as other new indie releases The Climb and Ammonite, which each averaged about $300 per venue (which would mean a $22,500 debut for Mank).[32] Upon the film's release onto Netflix, it only managed to finish in the top-10 on its first day. IndieWire wrote that it just "didn't gain the attention of other high-profile originals like Da 5 Bloods, The Trial of the Chicago 7, and Hillbilly Elegy," all of which debuted in first or second place.[33]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 83% of 319 critics gave the film a positive review, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "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."[34] According to Metacritic, which compiled 52 reviews and calculated a weighted average score of 79 out of 100, the film received "generally favorable reviews".[35]

Writing for Discussing Film, Ben Rolph called it "a spellbinding, rapturous take on Hollywood’s golden-age", saying that it serves as a "masterful gaze into the inner workings of Hollywood’s classical studio system that proves to be utterly transfixing." [36] Eric Kohn of IndieWire gave the film a "B+" and wrote: "However much credit Mankiewicz deserves for Kane, Fincher's remarkable movie makes a compelling argument for appreciating the prescience behind its conception. His life had a rough ending, but the movie about it gives him one last bitter laugh."[37] Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Justin Chang said, "Mank demands your surrender, but also your heightened attention. It's a pleasurably discombobulating experience, sometimes playing like mordant drawing-room comedy and sometimes flirting with expressionist nightmare, as when Welles' dark silhouette looms over a bedridden Mank and his mummified leg."[38]

Owen Gleiberman of Variety praised the performances and production design, saying, "Mank is a tale of Old Hollywood that's more steeped in Old Hollywood — its glamour and sleaze, its layer-cake hierarchies, its corruption and glory — than just about any movie you've seen, and the effect is to lend it a dizzying time-machine splendor."[39] Peter Travers, reviewing the film for ABC News, wrote: "Mank is the most gorgeous piece of cinema you'll see anywhere. Brilliantly shot in black-and-white by Erik Messerschmidt, with costumes to die for by Trish Summerville and a period-authentic score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross that somehow isn't defeated by the retro mono sound, Mank is meant to match the look and feel of its era, as if it's eight decades ago and you just bought a ticket."[40]

Jason Bailey of The Playlist was more mixed and gave the film a "C+" grade, calling it a "gorgeously mounted but ultimately distant biopic".[41] The A.V. Club's Ignatiy Vishnevetsky thought it was "conventional to a fault", writing that parts of the film "bear an uncanny resemblance to the kind of awards-bait middlebrow drama usually essayed by BBC-trained hacks."[42]

Accolades[edit]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
AACTA Awards March 6, 2021 Best International Direction David Fincher Nominated [43]
Best International Screenplay Jack Fincher Nominated
Best International Actor Gary Oldman Nominated
Best International Supporting Actress Amanda Seyfried Nominated
Alliance of Women Film Journalists Awards January 4, 2021 Best Supporting Actress Nominated [44]
Best Original Screenplay Jack Fincher Nominated
Best Cinematography Erik Messerschmidt Nominated
American Film Institute Awards February 26, 2021 Top 10 Movies of the Year Mank Won [45]
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards December 13, 2020 Best Supporting Actress Amanda Seyfried Runner-up [46]
[47]
Chicago Film Critics Awards December 21, 2020 Best Supporting Actress Nominated [46]
[48]
Best Original Score Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross Nominated
Best Cinematography Erik Messerschmidt Nominated
Best Art Direction Donald Graham Burt and Jan Pascale Won
Best Costume Design Trish Summerville Nominated
Critics’ Choice Movie Awards March 7, 2021 Best Picture Mank Pending [49]
Best Actor Gary Oldman Pending
Best Supporting Actress Amanda Seyfried Pending
Best Director David Fincher Pending
Best Original Screenplay Jack Fincher Pending
Best Production Design Donald Graham Burt, Jan Pascale Pending
Best Cinematography Erik Messerschmidt Pending
Best Costume Design Trish Summerville Pending
Best Editing Kirk Baxter Pending
Best Hair and Makeup Mank Pending
Best Visual Effects Pending
Best Score Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross Pending
Florida Film Critics Circle Awards December 21, 2020 Best Original Screenplay Jack Fincher Nominated [50]
Best Art Direction / Production Design Donald Graham Burt Won
Best Cinematography Erik Messerschmidt Won
Golden Globe Awards February 28, 2021 Best Motion Picture – Drama Mank Nominated [51]
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Gary Oldman Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Amanda Seyfried Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture David Fincher Nominated
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Jack Fincher Nominated
Best Original Score – Motion Picture Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross Nominated
Guldbagge Awards January 25, 2021 Best Foreign Film David Fincher Nominated [52]
[53]
Hollywood Critics Association Awards March 5, 2021 Best Male Director Nominated [54]
Best Supporting Actress Amanda Seyfried Nominated
Best Cinematography Erik Messerschmidt Nominated
Best Score Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross Nominated
Best Hair and Makeup Kimberley Spiteri, Colleen LaBaff, Gigi Williams, and Michelle Audrina Kim Nominated
Best Costume Design Trish Summerville Nominated
Best Production Design Donald Graham Burt Won
London Film Critics' Circle February 7, 2021 Director of the Year David Fincher Nominated [55]
Supporting Actress of the Year Amanda Seyfried Nominated
Screenwriter of the Year Jack Fincher Nominated
Technical Achievement Award Donald Graham Burt Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards December 20, 2020 Best Supporting Actress Amanda Seyfried Runner-up [56]
Best Production Design Donald Graham Burt Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards January 9, 2021 Best Supporting Actress Amanda Seyfried Runner-up [57]
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards January 11, 2021 Best Supporting Actress Runner-up [58]
Best Cinematography Erik Messerschmidt Runner-up
Best Production Design Donald Graham Burt Won
Best Costumes Trish Summerville Nominated
Satellite Awards February 15, 2021 Best Director David Fincher Nominated [59]
Best Actor in Drama Gary Oldman Nominated
Actress in a Supporting Role Amanda Seyfried Won
Best Original Screenplay Jack Fincher Nominated
Best Original Score Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross Nominated
Best Cinematography Erik Messerschmidt Won
Best Film Editing Kirk Baxter Nominated
Best Sound Editing Ren Klyce, Jeremy Molod, David Parker, Nathan Nance & Drew Kunin Nominated
Best Visual Effects Wei Zheng, Simon Carr, James Pastorius & Pablo Helman Nominated
Best Art Direction and Production Design Donald Graham Burt, Chris Craine, Dan Webster & Jan Pascale Won
Best Costume Design Trish Summerville Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards April 4, 2021 Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Gary Oldman Pending [60]
St. Louis Film Critics Association January 17, 2021 Best Actor Nominated [61]
Best Supporting Actress Amanda Seyfried Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Jack Fincher Nominated
Best Editing Kirk Baxter Nominated
Best Original Score Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross Nominated
Best Cinematography Erik Messerschmidt Nominated
Best Production Design Donald Graham Burt Won
Visual Effects Society Awards April 6, 2021 Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature Wei Zheng, Peter Mavromates, Simon Carr, James Pastorius Pending [62]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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