Director David Fincher’s latest film, “Mank,” doesn’t debut on Netflix until Dec. 4 — but that isn’t stopping the movie from generating Oscar buzz, more than a month ahead of its streaming release.
The old-school Hollywood affair, which captures the sound and look of the time, chronicles alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) work with wunderkind Orson Welles (Tom Burke) in 1940 writing “Citizen Kane.” The film also flashes back to Mankiewicz’s rocky dealings in the 1930s with actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) and media mogul William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance).
According to early reactions from media members who saw an advance screening, “Mank,” the first film directed by Fincher since 2014’s “Gone Girl” is already shaping up to be an Oscars contender.
In a column for Deadline, Pete Hammond describes “Mank” as “one of the best films about movies I have ever seen,” adding that “it would be hard to imagine at this point any other film generating more heat” for the Oscars.
“Expect nominations for Best Picture, Director, Oldman as Best Actor, a revelatory Amanda Seyfried in Supporting Actress as Marion Davies, Erik Messerschmidt’s stunning black-and-white cinematography, Donald Graham Burke’s production design, Trish Summerville’s luscious costume design, Kirk Baxter’s film editing, the score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross plus makeup, sound, and visual effects (many of the locations were through the magic of digital),” he continued.
Other critics added to the hype on Twitter.
Collider’s editor-in-chief Steven Weintraub hailed “Mank” as “one of the best films of 2020” and noted that cinephiles “are going to LOVE this movie.”
Variety’s Clayton Davis said “Mank” has “plenty to admire technically.”
“Production, camerawork, sound & score are its strongest elements & the leading picks for the #Oscars,” he continued. “This is the AP Film History course for cinephiles, likely to alienate some general audiences.”
IndieWire’s Kate Erbland praised the film for “exceptional craftsmanship” as well as “a strong turn from Amanda Seyfried,” but she also noted the film has “an obsession with picking and choosing historical bits that will likely rankle the very cinephiles it was ostensibly made for.”
“Plus more Upton Sinclair chatter than anyone would ever, EVER need,” she added.
Thrillist’s Esther Zuckerman, however, appreciated the historical aspects of the film.
“the thing about MANK is it’s less a movie about the making of Citizen Kane than it is about the circumstances that inspired the movie and those circumstances are watching capitalism corrupt in the midst of a depression,” she wrote.
The Atlantic’s David Sims saw the movie as a commentary on the film industry.
“MANK is a great great movie about how writing in the Hollywood machine can feel like hurling pebbles at Goliath, and how thrilling and terrifying it is to think that one time they might actually knock him out,” he wrote.
Still, not everyone was a “Mank” fan. The film left Uproxx’s Mike Ryan wanting more.
“On paper, David Fincher’s MANK is a movie I *should* love, but instead just admire,” he wrote. “Incredibly well crafted, shot, acted. But the story left me cold. I now know more about Mank’s feelings toward the 1934 California gubernatorial race than I do his feelings toward Orson Welles.”
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IndieWire’s Eric Kohn wrote that “Mank” is “a peculiar labyrinth of a movie, a thrilling & unpredictable approach to deconstructing Hollywood history in its own language.”
“No, you won’t get a definitive CITIZEN KANE backstory (& Orson emerges relatively unscathed); you’ll get a remarkable window into what it means,” he added.
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Contributing: Brian Truitt