Moon Manor, as self-described by the creative team, is a “coming-of-death” story that approaches the weighty topic from a standpoint of positivity and celebration. We follow the last day of Jimmy’s life exactly as he intended: with humor, vigor, self-actualization and striking beauty. James ‘Jimmy’ Carrozo plays a sensationalized version of himself that’s peppered with the authenticity of his personal stories. Like 2021’s SXSW breakout, Swan Song, Moon Manor features a terrific ensemble, but never forgets the meaning and poignancy of following an older man during his final day on earth.
Deep in the throes of Alzheimer’s, Jimmy is ready to call it quits: he’s throwing one big FUN-eral, with everyone he holds near and dear (his religious brother, a strange being that claims to be his “intuition,” an obituary writer looking for his first big break, etc) in attendance. Everyone comes, from joint howlers, to cellmates, and to best friends. On this day, Jimmy’s life will come to an end. Using assisted suicide via his death doula (a magnetic Debra Wilson), Jimmy plans to go out with a bang—the same way he’s always lived his eccentric life.
Opening your film with a Grouplove song over the credits is a quick and easy way to get my attention. It acts as excellent table-setting, and the soundtrack as a whole is great. Each needle drop is beautiful and perfectly evokes the proper mood in every scene. A meaningful drag lip sync injects the LGBT element in a way that’s entirely organic to the story.
Jimmy himself is a defined, singular, hilarious, and elder gay full of wisdom and life experience. He always has a quip or sharp barb ready for anything thrown his way. When the journalist (Lou Taylor Pucci), surprised at Jimmy’s chosen method of death, remarks that “Most people don’t like taking that many pills,” Jimmy responds; “you didn’t know me in the 80’s.” His background is fascinating—segments of his life are briefly shown through effective and sparing use of flashback, and his stories take on a vibrancy that gets us properly acquainted. When asked about his first love, Jimmy remarks: “Love at first sight? Hell no, we just wanted to fuck.”
From meeting his lost lover in line for a HAIR audition, to his stint as a musician, and to selling celestial real estate and Moonie babies, Jimmy’s colorful personality shines through many of the actor’s true tales. Throughout the day we see his sanity crumbling, and the movie let’s the audience decide if they support Jimmy’s decisions one way or another. Medical aid in death is presented in an understanding and realistic method that will leave viewers thinking.
I really admired the more light-hearted approach to death here over how it is usually depicted, through morbidity and deep sadness. Direction from female duo Erin Granat and Machete Bang Bang is melodic and hypnotic. The film never forgets to put the FUN in funeral. Existential ideas and concepts are lovely; instead of feeling preachy, they make you think. Jimmy’s brother (Richard Riehle), who judges him for taking the suicide route, is thrown for a loop when Jimmy compares it to euthanasia for dogs—why won’t we do for our loved ones what we’ll do for our pets? Dementia is compared to a filing cabinet, with drawers that start sticking together. Moon Manor is an unconventional meditation of death that reminds us every life is worth living, and every living person eventually dies. Just because you’re not a household name doesn’t mean you didn’t earn your place among the stars!
Moon Manor debuted at the 2021 Atlanta Film Festival, April 22nd – May 2nd.