Moon Manor didn’t quite work for me. However, it finishes with poignant elegance while sending home a sobering message about stigmas behind certain health conditions. In this case, how does an elderly man (James ‘Jimmy’ Carrozo playing a version of himself) with debilitating Alzheimer’s choose to live his life? Moon Manor’s answer: throw yourself a FUN-eral and go out safely on your own terms. Moon Manor follows Jimmy on his “last day”.
While assisted suicide is still a controversial topic, the subject is handled with care by filmmakers Erin Granat and Machete Bang Bang (who also wrote the semi-autobiographical script based on Carrozo’s stories and hypothetical desires). The duo place a much needed emphasis on the love and support that should be a requirement when someone decides to look towards this option. Throughout the movie, Jimmy is surrounded by those who have appreciated his company and have been touched by his outgoing personality. Any outsider negativity that finds its way into Jimmy’s special day has been purposely invited by James for personal reasons. A writer (Lou Taylor Pucci) who has been hired to write Jimmy’s obituary quickly takes more of an intimate interest, as the writer’s general questioning turns into an inspired interview.
Moon Manor has an appropriate focus in this story, but its lighthearted new age portrayal is a little annoying. It’s really sweet for a movie to exhibit so much gratitude and affection, but the effect can be soured when filmmakers are too aware of their story’s influence. It welcomes in too many mannered factors for the characters, who are then devalued as one-note players in Jimmy’s life. Carrozo has authentic charisma, but the reactions around him don’t match what he’s offering. I did, however, like Debra Wilson’s performance as Fritti, Jimmy’s “death doula”. Wilson, known for outrageous work on early seasons of MADtv, brings a delicately warm presence to her role.
Other attempts to be funny or quirky also suffer from the same self-awareness that hampers Moon Manor. A macabre yet glamorous figure that follows Jimmy around (known as “his intuition”) is an interesting inclusion, but this presence doesn’t add up to much more than being a random sighting in James’ house that has split-second significance later on.
Moon Manor means well but, while it’s able to finish with a bang, it ultimately doesn’t leave much of an impression. If you’re interested in this subject matter and want to see it handled more maturely with better humour, load up Netflix and watch a Grace & Frankie episode titled “The Bender”. It’s a fantastic standalone episode where the titular friends are asked to assist with a wayward pal’s FUN-eral.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie