366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.
DIRECTED BY: Machete Bang Bang, Erin Grana
FEATURING: James ‘Jimmy’ Carrozo, Lou Taylor Pucci, Richard Riehle, Debra Wilson
PLOT: Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, an elderly bohemian decides to end his life, and stages a celebratory “fun-eral” party ending with his suicide.
COMMENTS: Moon Manor has a strong point of view, and for better or worse, it sticks to it. It’s structured not as a movie, but as a memorial service. It’s both didactic and celebratory. Jimmy, a former singer and moon real estate salesman, suffers from dementia that’s only getting worse. Deciding to take control of the end of his life, he avails himself of liberal West Coast laws allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of barbiturates and invites his friends over to celebrate his last day on earth. Along for the final ride are a death doula who reads from the Tibetan Book of the Dead and a neophyte local journalist covering the eulogy beat who hopes to leverage Jimmy’s death into a feature article. Most of Jimmy’s old friends are dead, but younger folk touched by his mentorship come along to the party to give testimonials, a drag queen supplies entertainment, and Rikki Lake shows up to give some words of encouragement. Jimmy is a swell guy and no one has a bad word to say about him, as is appropriate. We get to know him through flashbacks (Jimmy met the love of his life at an audition for “Hair,” a musical whose revolutionary potential he still staunchly defends). The only pushback to the general sense of how wonderful the whole suicide plan is comes from a pair of evangelical protestors who park outside his house and shout Bible verses through a bullhorn—although these antagonists are quickly overcome and sidelined. (They are basically intolerant, unempathetic strawmen, although one of them does receive some unexpected character development).
The movie has a heavy neo-hippie, New Age vibe, which can come across as a bit naïve but is in keeping with its subject’s spirit. Moon Manor is a feature-length advertisement for a radical species of death with dignity, and, though one-sided, it successfully makes the decision seem rational. But is it weird? Not if you’re the kind of guy who recognizes the pot of San Pedro cactus growing in the corner of the kitchen. There are a few fast-cut montages with colored lights, and there’s a shambling apparition hanging around (Jimmy assumes it’s Death, but it names itself “Intuition). The editing in the hallucination sequences is indie-psychedelic standard, competent but not transcendent. It’s not as weird as you’d expect from a movie co-directed by someone named Machete Bang Bang.
Moon Manor aims at persuasion, and how well you like it will depend on your position on the right to die (and on whether you think opposing viewpoints should at least get a fair hearing). But it’s also a living eulogy for an extraordinary man, which makes the movie harder to criticize or dislike. Jimmy is endearing and authentic, because he is playing a version of himself: many of the details, including his love story and his career as a working musician, are taken from the actor’s real life. Knowing the factual basis of the fictional story makes it easier to accept the film’s argument: this may not really be happening, but you know the actor you’re seeing onscreen wholeheartedly endorses the scenario. Fortunately, there is no indication that the real-life Jimmy has advanced Alzheimer’s, or intends to die soon.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY: