Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.” Death is a frightening prospect for most people to think about, and rightfully so. Who knows when it will strike, how, and what exactly happens after this existence? What if we could control the how and the when?
C0-writers/co-directors Erin Granat and Machete Bang Bang’s Moon Manor is about Jimmy’s (played with a zesty eccentricity by James Carrozo) last day on this earthly plane. With his Alzheimer’s worsening every day, Jimmy decides that he wants to go out on his own terms via assisted suicide. He’ll shuffle off this mortal coil by laughing and partying with his loved ones at his own “FUN-eral.”
The general tone of the majority of the movie is light and comedic. The filmmakers fill the narrative with fun little odd touches, such as a surreal character who appears to Jimmy in visions and is quite reminiscent of Frank the rabbit from Donnie Darko. Despite the humorous tone, there’s also room for heavy meditations on life and death, given the subject matter. This adds an emotional layer that most comedies just don’t have.
Another cool and unique aspect of Moon Manor is that the role of Jimmy is actually based on the real-life of Carrozo. It adds an air of authenticity to the proceedings. Jimmy Carrozo, both the character and the actual person, is an openly gay hippie with a flair for the dramatic (such as inviting religious protesters to his “funeral”) and a love for sharing stories about his wild life.
“…Jimmy decides that he wants to go out on his own terms…”
A wide-eyed, young obituary writer named Andrew (played perfectly by Lou Taylor Pucci) is part of the FUN-eral. He’s there to document Jimmy’s final day for a headline article that Andrew hopes will be his big writing break. Carrozo and Pucci play off each other quite well, while the Andrew character is a wonderful gateway for the audience to learn about Jimmy’s life and hear his stories. As Andrew’s fascination and care for Jimmy grows as the movie goes on, so too does the viewers’ affection for the elderly man.
Assisted suicide has been a controversial, hot-button topic ever since back in the days when Doctor Kevorkian (aka Doctor Death) was dominating news headlines. If someone is in extreme pain, be it physically or emotionally, due to a condition, what right do others have to tell someone suffering that they have to continue living that way? That’s the stance of Moon Manor, and it makes sense, despite all of the societal and religious stigmas surrounding suicide.
The two religious zealot characters of Gordon (Richard Riehle) and Terry (Galen Howard) are hilarious, pitch-perfect caricatures of “Jesus freaks.” This is another great writing device because these characters allow Granat and Bang Bang to show the debate about suicide authentically, organically, and humorously.
The exceptional cast is rounded out by the caring characters of Fritti (Debra Wilson) and Remy (Reshma Gajjar) as Jimmy’s death doula and caregiver, respectively. They’re both there to make Jimmy’s transition to the other side as smooth as possible. This is another thing that lends credence to assisted suicide because it’s shown as being done in a humane and caring manner.
Moon Manor might not seem like it is for everyone, given the topic. But hopefully, it will be seen by a wide audience because the beauty of cinema is that it can show us different perspectives.
"…cool and unique..."