Complete A-Z list



Stars: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tuppence Middleton, Charles Dance, Tom Burke. Sam Troughton, Tom Pelphrey

Director: David Fincher

Hollywood puts itself under the microscope again. The year is 1940, and boozy writer Herman Mankiewicz (Oldman), laid up in bed with a broken leg, is hired to cobble together a screenplay for Wunderkind Orson Welles' (Burke) first great screen project - in 60 days.

What he produces, in between taking refuge in the bottle, is a brilliantly-written but thinly disguised version of the life of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (Dance) whose partner, coquettish star Marion Davies (Seyfried) begs Mankiewicz, a longtime friend, to walk away from the project.

The film, however, is not really about this, but a look at MGM filmmaking in the thirties under its autocratic chief Louis B Mayer (Howard) and Mankiewicz's part in it.

However, the film is slow to get going and, by the time we get to the interesting bits, has all but talked itself to death, especially in a long scene at Hearst's birthday. A potentially interesting story, knitted together with verbal barbs, never quite takes shape.

The acting, however, is sterling stuff from a predominantly British star cast, notably Oldman, Dance, Howard, Seyfried and Middleton (as Mank's long-suffering wife). But movie buffs, who will also appreciate the crisply clear black-and-white photography, are going to find this one more interesting than a general audience.

David Quinlan

USA 2020. UK Distributor: Netflix. Black and white.
131 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 16 Dec 2020