“1930’s Hollywood is reevaluated through the eyes of scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish the screenplay of Citizen Kane (1941).” -IMDB
This is definitely a movie for movie nerds. Let me clarify…
This week, I planned to do a Citizen Kane/Mank line-up, so that I could see the Welle’s classic before heading into this year’s Mank, which follows Kane‘s screenwriter, Herman Mankieweicz. As a movie nerd, I tend to go down Google rabbit holes as I watch movies, especially movies I enjoy. So, as I watched Citizen Kane, I also learned more about Orson Welles, a few of the film’s other stars, and the individual on which the main character is based, William Randolph Hearst. There have also been a number of other books and films on Hearst, so I knew a generally outline of the man. And good lord, am I glad that I did this armchair research, because having a general knowledge of early Hollywood and the key players in the making of Citizen Kane helped me understand what was going on in Mank.
And that is where my only criticism of the movie lies. It might be a little tough for people with no knowledge of this time period in Hollywood or those who haven’t seen Citizen Kane to follow along as many of the events unfold. There are political and historical storylines which are easy to follow, but some of the Hollywood mechanisms are a bit tough to understand if you don’t already know some of the players and backstory. But that is how many historical films are, it helps if you already have a knowledge of the time period, so I don’t think it’s a major detractor.
Otherwise, I loved the film. I though David Fincher’s 40s-style direction might be a bit gimmicky going in, but it wasn’t at all. It gave a nod to the style of Citizen Kane, while also helping to dramatize the era. It is honestly easier to think about the Great Depression, the lead up to WWII, and the lead up to McCarthyism in black and white, because when we learn about those eras, that’s the reel footage we see. It was actually very impressive to see how much Fincher and co. were able to echo moments from Kane without feeling grossly overdone or antiquated.
As with Supernova (which I discussed last week), this was a movie that was easy to go into in terms of the acting. You KNOW that Gary Oldman is going to own every. single. performance. every. single. time. And I was so glad to see Amanda Seyfried, Lily, Collins, Charles Dance, and other character actors get a chance to shine in this film as well (Side Note: Big Love is the most underrated show OF ALL TIME and Amanda Seyfried did not get nearly enough credit for her role in it. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it NOW on HBO Max).
So, overall I thoroughly enjoyed this film and will watch it again; however, if you don’t feel like doing a little bit of homework before going into this film, then it may not be for you.
Rating: 8 out of 10 Claire Bears
If you like this movie, you should also see: Citizen Kane, Trimble, Chaplin
With: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Charles Dance
Directed By: David Fincher