Review: 'Moon Manor' A Funny, Piquant Meditation on the End of Life

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday March 11, 2022

'Moon Manor'
'Moon Manor'  

What's the hallmark of a life well lived? Co-writers/co-directors Erin Granat & Machete Bang Bang make a compelling case, in their thoughtful end-of-life comedy "Moon Manor," that a death well greeted is as good a measure as any.

Openly gay elder Jimmy (Jim Carrozo) suffers from Alzheimer's, and he knows his condition is getting worse. He plans a dignified and uplifting exit — a "FUN-eral" — and invites everyone in his life to the occasion: His caregiver, Remy (Reshma Gajjar), his boyhood best friend, Slick (Cullen G. Chambers), and his old pal Ricki Lake (playing herself!), among others. He also arranges for the affair to be professionally overseen both by party planners and by a death doula named Fritti (Debra Wilson), as well as documented by an obituary writer, Andrew (Lou Taylor Pucci), who is excited to be writing his first feature for the local newspaper. Just for some extra fun and friction, Jimmy also extends an invitation to Gordon (Richard Riehle), a religious zealot he knows is sure to show up with his sidekick Terry (Galen Howard), a couple of bullhorns, and an sheaf of home-made tracts decrying assisted suicide.

Jimmy has planned his last day on Earth to be a gracious, and sometimes rambunctious, valediction, but whether due to the disease, his impending mortality, or his own high spirits and creativity, he begins seeing apparitions. Some of them seem to represent his own conflicting impulses (he's perhaps not 100% enthusiastic to be checking out); one of them introduces itself as his "intuition," but it might just be the Angel of Death.

The film offers quite a few surprises as Jimmy's life unfolds in anecdotes told to Andrew (he's made a living selling real estate on the Moon! He's even been given a Moon rock as a souvenir by an astronaut!) and in flashbacks that cleverly take place just adjacent to the present-day action: Jimmy meeting his life partner Ricky at an audition for "Hair" is a highlight, while an early memory of being locked into a closet (an apt metaphor, in this case) by his disapproving brother provides us an understanding of the rift between Jimmy and his sibling, and a greater appreciation for the way he's lived his life — authentically, openly, unstoppably. (More surprises await in the lineup of guests who offer orations once the party gets started, the mildest of which are a burly Scotsman, a pair of eclipse buffs, and a fellow connoisseur of seafood buffets and psilocybin mushrooms.)

Though there are a couple of moments when the movie starts to veer into moth-eaten farce (the shtick between Gordon and the dimwitted Terry quickly gets stale, and their run-in with a pair of pissed off neighbors doesn't elevate things), those passages are brief intrusions that eventually fall away. Still, they serve a purpose; after all, which spiritual exercise is more appealing? Hollering through bullhorns, or spending some time in wordless appreciation for the natural glories to be found in your own back yard?

The film, we learn as the end credits roll, "is inspired by stories from James Corrozo's real life," and Mr. Corrozo, like Jimmy, has made it known that if and when the time comes, he'd much prefer to greet the end in the manner of his own choosing. Whenever that day comes, he'll have this charming slice of autofictive cinema to look back on, along with his other treasured memories.

Meantime, the rest of us have something more to think about: Life, death, gratitude, and love.

"Moon Manor" is available in demand March 11.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.