“Mank” is an incredibly bland biopic

WSS staffer Sam Westergaard ’21 explains that “Mank” really stanks.


Image courtesy of Netflix.

WSS staffer Sam Westergaard ’21 explains why “Mank” doesn’t live up to expectations.

Netflix has taken film fans by storm with David Fincher’s latest movie, “Mank.” “Mank” is the biopic of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who was presumed to be the actual mastermind behind the film “Citizen Kane.” David Fincher fans are singing the film’s praise and are saying it’s his most fun film. That could not be further from the truth. “Mank” is one of the blandest biopics I have seen. The film has many issues, but I have narrowed them down to three big problems. 

Heck, even the poster makes Mank look more eccentric than he actually is in the film.”

— Sam Westergaard '21

The first problem is the acting. All the actors in “Mank” deliver very boring and forgettable performances. Gary Oldman is our Mank, and he does not play him well. His performance is very one-note. All Oldman brings to the table is the tired drunk character. We have seen this character archetype so much. The real Mank was a drinker but not constantly drunk, and that is all Oldman delivers. Another problem with his preference is that all the characters around Mank talk about how amazing and genius he is but the script doesn’t show any of that. Heck, even the poster makes him look more eccentric than he actually is in the film. As a result, Oldman has nothing to work with and his presence is super dull and lacks a lot of charisma. Amanda Seyfried is the only actor who stands out, and just barely. She plays Marion Davies who is an aspiring actor and wife of William Randolph Hearst. Hearst is who Kane is meant to be modeled after. But Hearst is majorly sidelined and only appears in two scenes. But back on topic, her performance has at least some emotions. The aspiring Hollywood star is another archetype that is overplayed, but at least she has some presence to her. The rest of the cast is forgettable and has little to no emotion. To be fair it’s not really their fault; it’s mainly the poor material they are given. The script is very bad and the actors are simply delivering their poorly written lines.

Amanda Seyfried is the only actor with some emotion in Mank

The second big problem is the editing. The film is meant to be presented as a 40s black and white film. So the audio is distorted and all the characters’ voices sound muffled. As a result, the bad dialogue is hard to make out with the muffled effect that is used. This is very jarring. I was watching the film on a computer and I thought there was a problem with the speakers but no, the sound design is just the worst. I mentioned earlier that the film was in black and white, this makes it look unattractive. Now I have no problem with modern black and white films. I am personally not a fan of The Lighthouse”as a film but that is an example of how to do a black and white film right. “The Lighthouse” is shot on film which makes it look like an actual 40s film. “Mank” on the other hand is a bad example. The movie is filmed on digital, and it’s really obvious. The film looks like a modern film that is just given a black and white iMovie effect. The film overall just sounds ghastly and looks incredibly unappealing. 

The biggest problem with “Mank” is that the film is boring. The film isn’t compelling at all, and if you’re not aware of the history behind the film it’s even more boring. The film doesn’t do a good job at teaching and informing the audience of the history. The film does a really terrible job at teaching the audience who people like Louis B. Mayer and William Randolph Hearst are. Even if you do know who these figures are, the rest of the film is really unsuccessfully put together. It’s not interesting, and the ugly black and white makes it not look good to watch. The acting, as previously stated, is really dull, and the characters aren’t well written enough to be engaging. At the end of the day, “Mank” is simply a bad, and uninteresting biopic.