It’s often hard to put the fun in funeral… but not for Jimmy.
As his Alzheimer’s continues to devolve, Jimmy (James ‘Jimmy’ Carozzo) decides that he wants to die on his own terms and plans his own funeral. However, instead of a somber affair, Jimmy wants a celebration of life, fueled by humour and joy. As he prepares his transition, he invites Andrew (Lou Taylor Pucci), an obituary writer, to hear his story and help him tell it to others. As he celebrates with his death doula, his caretaker, his estranged brother and many, many more, Jimmy emphasizes that his life may not have been ‘known’ but it certainly mattered to many.
Co-directed by Machete Bang Bang and Erin Granat, Moon Manor follows one man’s choice to transition out of his life on his own terms. As the true-ish story of James ‘Jimmy’ Carazo, Manor evolves into a meta-conversation about the meaning of life, love and hope. In Jimmy, Granat and Machete have found a character who is both funny, warm and even a little mysterious. Jimmy is a simple man who simply wants to exit this world in a place of love. As such, there is a genuine sense of peace about this film from start to finish.
Struggling with Alzheimer’s, Jimmy sees that the end of his life is fast approaching and decides to go out on his own terms. Whether he’s speaking with guests, friends or those in opposition, Jimmy brings light into the room. He is both bright and meditative at the same time. Featuring stories from his actual life, Jimmy feels less like he’s acting and more like he’s participating in his own tribute to life.
The primary story surrounding Andrew’s article adds particular poise to the film. As opposed to focusing on his death, Jimmy is Andrew’s first feature and he listens with an open heart. As he observes a man who is preparing to let go, Andrew begins to asks what is it that matters most. As Jimmy prepares to die, Andrew may be recording a collection of stories but more than that he is also assembling a collection of moments. To him, these are the things that matter. From his deepest romance to the people that he meets along the way, Manor is reflects on the impact both small and large that we have on the lives of others over the course of our lives.
And he has certainly made an impact.
Jimmy has led a vibrant life selling moon rocks and stuffed animals, as a moderately successful musician, spent time in jail and so much more. He has lived a vibrant life designed to bless others. This becomes most apparent at his funeral when people from all walks of life arrive to share stories and celebrate Jimmy. Whether they’re stories from prison, encouraging Russian businessmen or simply wild party stories, every stranger within the room is tied together through their experience of Jimmy. (For example, while an appearance by Ricki Lake at first feels jarring, one quickly realizes that that randomness is precisely the point. Jimmy has lived a full life that has touched the hearts of many.
Everyone from everywhere.
Jimmy is a man of love and he loves others thoroughly. As a result, the funeral evolves into a dance party, celebrating the love that he is offered throughout his life. Flipping a moment of sadness on its ear, Jimmy really does put the ‘fun’ in funeral as, in this space, those who love him wish him well.
Interestingly, Moon Manor takes a surprisingly open approach to the afterlife, albeit a nonspecific one. This is not a film that believes in nothing. (Jimmy himself points to the fact that he sells pieces of the moon because he wants people to maintain a sense of wonder and that there’s ‘something greater than ourselves’.) However, it’s also a film that believes that we don’t know what to believe. While the film certainly has an opinion on the matter, whether or not you agree with Jimmy’s decision is hardly the point. Instead, what matters most in this Manor is love. (For instance, the most unloving character within the film is a representative of the church who claims that Jimmy’s actions will condemn him to hell, sending him on a mission to ‘save his soul’.)
Though Moon Manor deals with heavy subject matter, the film is neither overly sad nor flippant in its joy. What does bring however is pause. Although Manor speaks of the importance of transitioning into what comes after, so true does it recognize the importance of what we have at the moment. This is a very difficult balance to walk but Manor does it very well. Jimmy understands that the power of life is not nearly made up of massive success or notoriety but instead by celebrating the people and the moments that we have been given when they are in front of us in the present.
And he sets a goal for all of our funerals in the future.
Moon Manor is available on VOD on Tuesday, March 15th, 2022.