By Bruce Bouchard
I was greatly looking forward to David Fincher’s “Mank” and was resoundingly disappointed. Fincher’s trademark tension (of which he is a master) was totally missing here, birthing cinematic lethargy throughout.
Black and white was a strong period choice, but from the opening credits to an unearned and forced climax, he is hellbent on laying in his notion of an 80-year-old “style”: visual, verbal, and lighting hell on the entire picture.
The story jumbles, thrashing hither and thither — as it leaps from the time of the collaboration with Welles to earlier dustups, writers’ rooms, head-butts with executives, all of this adding absolutely no context for the story living at the time of his final magisterial screenplay.
I love Gary Oldman (his “Churchill” was as good as it gets), but he is surprisingly one-note and unpleasant to be with; his occasional compassion and original thinking notwithstanding, the performance has the stink of unwashed alcohol-stained sheets on a hot desert noon, his preferred time of awakening.
The best and most surprising performance is the underrated Arliss Howard doing a sublime disappearing act as he populates a wickedly observed Louis B. Mayer. His Bossman stride across the studio lot, while blasting forth his management philosophies and the MGM ethos, is the apex of the movie. Not so much for the poorly used Amanda Seyfried, who functions more as decorated furniture than as a living breathing human. Maybe it is tough working with your father (his dad wrote the turgid screenplay).
Bruce Bouchard was the executive producer at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland for 12 years, who retired in December 2020.