In what felt like a shot to the arm, the first trailer for David Fincher’s tinsel-town Hollywood epic Mank, which details the story behind likely the most renowned film of all time, Citizen Kane (A film that I personally don’t have that much renown for), felt like a cool stream pushing life-giving liquids through my veins, waking me up from my dehydrated film stupor. Watching this trailer reminded me of a specific feeling, a feeling I get every time the fall movie season rolls around. This is also a feeling that has slowly deflated as the 2020 movie calendar has quickly transformed into the 2021 movie calendar.
If you didn’t know by now, the movies are hurting. Movie theaters have possibly changed for good after an extended worldwide quarantine whilst consumers built new at-home habits. Theaters are hanging on by a thread and there are currently no new major studio tentpole releases until Christmas Day with Wonder Woman 1984 (who knows if it will actually stay there- it might just have to because 2021 is so packed). With everything moving to 2021, it has been easy to just write the rest of the movie year off.
Enter David Fincher.
One of our greatest living directors, who has been stuck in Netflix original show land for 6 years, has returned in glory and splendor, resurrecting my excitement for the rest of the year with a film about the making of a classic that looks far more interesting than the classic film it’s about.
The story follows alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman in what looks like an excellent late career role), or “Mank” affectionately, as he navigates the world of 1930’s Hollywood. He is called up to the plate by wunderkind director Orson Welles and asked if he’s “ready and willing to hunt the great white whale”. The great white whale that Welles is referring to is the newspaper-and-media magnate William Randolph Hearst, a prickly and powerful key figure of the early 20th century. Mank responds to Welles with “Just call me Ahab” as he begins the process of writing what will soon be Citizen Kane, a film based on Hearst’s life. Mank is surely hunting “dangerous game” but he’s up to the challenge and I’m so down to see all the drama that went down behind the scenes of this classic film.
After Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood’s success last year, films about Hollywood have been attached to big-time directors with big-time budgets, and Mank looks no different. We’ve got a movie about 1920’s Hollywood from Damian Chazelle coming titled Babylon and we have two movies about The Godfather and Chinatown on their way as well (if you ask me, those are two films worthy of the designation “Greatest film of all time”, not Citizen Kane). I’m excited to see what Fincher can do in this new playground of his.
One fascinating thing about this trailer was its clear signal: this is going to be very different from anything that Fincher has done in the past. Fincher has a pretty dark worldview, one that aligns with the Christian worldview in some respects, mainly the clear understanding of the depravity of mankind. Yet, it lacks the hope found in Christ, who has destroyed sin and death once and for all and who’s light shines in the darkness. The darkness cannot overtake it.
Mank looks like Fincher might be delivering some light at the end of the tunnel. It looks like we could be receiving a triumphant story about the gift from God that art and artistic expression is. David Fincher and Netflix (of all places) are coming to save the fall movie season like Christopher Nolan did the summer. Fincher is delivering a late 2020 entry, for posterity’s sake, and his latest film’s trailer gives me faith that I might see a second truly great movie this year. For that, I can’t thank Fincher and Netflix enough.
Description: 1930s Hollywood is reevaluated through the eyes of scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish the screenplay of Citizen Kane.
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Dance, Lily Collins, Tom Pelphrey, Sam Troughton, Ferdinand Kinglsey, and Tuppence Middleton
Rating: R (some language)
Release Date: November 20th
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Carter Bennett is a Contributor and Cohost at Cinematic Doctrine. He’s a ravenous cinephile who loves looking at the film industry through the lens of a Christian worldview. He never went to film school, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming a certified Film Junkie! His ultimate desire is to faithfully give an account of his savior Jesus Christ through the world of filmmaking!