Ben Abraham’s review published on Letterboxd:
Not as antagonistic or combative narratively than what I was somewhat expecting, but David Fincher’s ‘Mank’ is an excellently written and finely performed character study and an impressive introspection on Fincher’s part.
There’s no frame of reference more entitled to this era of Hollywood than that of David Fincher’s, and the man’s perfectionisms adhere to character studies like this. Of course in comparison to Fincher’s wider filmography this feels like one of his lesser viscid efforts, and it’s one of his less hostile and driven narrative pieces. Fincher’s technical work is wonderful, you can actively see the glee he takes from some of the wonderfully timed and placed shots, the set design is wonderfully consistent and approachable. The cinematography is excellent, as is the score and to top it all of, the dialogue is some of the best put to screen this year.
Gary Oldman is perfect as Mank, his performance is wonderfully discontinuous and yet fully conscious, while being thoroughly visceral and direct. Fincher’s sympathetic and detailed approach to the character of Mank is perfect. Tom Burke is eerily well cast as Orson Welles, Amanda Seyfried also gives a standout performance, the supporting cast do a great job at keeping the narrative persistent.
Some may find it an unsolicited addition to Fincher’s filmography, simply due to the unobtrusiveness of the narrative and the sheer lack of narrative complexities, and for many that don’t particularly care for either old Hollywood or ‘Citizen Kane’ in particular, it will be a struggle to get much out this. I don’t think it’s necessarily the Oscar bait that some may paraphrase it as, but it’s probably Fincher’s best bet yet in terms of chance during the award season. I think it’s one of Fincher’s most well depicted character pieces as of yet, with Fincher’s eye for detail proving somewhat necessary by the film’s ending. I absolutely love the structure of the screenplay, it’s wonderfully particularised and the themes being presented through dialogue are done so consistently and earnestly.
I loved both the exploration and statement on Hollywood in general, and the political subplot was thoroughly entertaining and often quite funny. The balance of politics and the Hollywood scope are excellently weaved, the contiguousness of the two subtexts is widely interesting and the character exactitude within the themes is excellent. The exploration of alcoholism is less bleak and more so covertly handled, making the character of Mank feel wholly authentic and adding to the narrative punch (which isn’t often present elsewhere).