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The film is a dramatization of Herman J. Mankiewicz and his
background leading up to, and of the circumstances surrounding, the writing of the screen play to Citizen Kane (1941). The story Is told in non-linear fashion, alternating back and forth between, for example 1930, when Mankiewicz supposedly met Marion Davies, to 1942, when he and Orson Welles won best screenplay Oscars.

The movie uses as a basis several actual facts: Mankiewicz did get to know Marion Davies,
then William Randolph Hearst through the writer Charles Lederer who was Davies’ nephew; Mank may have been a house guest at Hearst’s San Simeon (although Hearst’s rule of no one having more than one cocktail likely would have prevented Mankiewicz’s visiting); he was an alcoholic; he did break his leg in 1939, and was later approached by Orson Welles to help with the screen play of Citizen Kane; and he and Welles did win Oscars for that screenplay.

Beyond that the film’s writing took quite a few liberties. For example it’s not known whether Mankiewicz was a supporter of
the socialist Sinclair Lewis. The scene in which Mankiewicz staggers drunk into the dining hall at the Hearst castle and offends everyone, bragging about an upcoming screenplay dissing Hearst, until most get up and leave the table-- likely never occurred. Several other scenes strained credulity.

However most every other facet of the production was first rate: the acting, direction, cinematography, production and set design, costuming, etc. The editing was also tricky but well done.

But it was the writing --especially of the dialogue-- that bothered me.
Much of it was almost Shakespearean: perfectly formed unhesitating spoken sentences, even those expressing several conflicting thoughts. Mankiewicz’s clever repartee, jokes, and zingers rolled off his tongue as if he were reading them. It was all too perfect. At times one could almost track the actors marching up to the camera seemingly with the invitation, “Okay, it’s your scene. Let’s have your speech.” In other words some of the dialogue did not seem natural. In Mankiewicz’s several drunk scenes, it made no sense that he could belt out perfectly constructed dialogue.Occasionally the picture felt nearly surrealistic.

Still, apart from some of the writing,
Mank is a top of the line effort, deserving of awards consideration, especially for Gary Oldman’s acting, and also for David Fincher’s direction.

Doc’s rating: 7/10