Moon Manor – tackles the taboo topic of the right to die with dignity
Inspired by a true-ish story about the life of James “Jimmy” Carrozo, Moon Manor,is the story of Jimmy’s last day alive. His Alzheimer’s is worsening, so he’s decided to die like he has lived – with intention, humor, and zest. In his last day on Earth, Jimmy will show an obituary writer, his death doula, his estranged brother, his caretaker, a surreal being, and the guests at his fabulous FUN-eral, that perhaps the art of living is the art of dying.
James “Jimmy” Carrozo just might be the most interesting man alive. Many movies could be made from the stories of his life. A professional actor, musician and comedian for over 60 years, he and life partner Ricky Granat shared the stage with luminaries such as Robin Williams and Jay Leno.
As a duo, Jimmy and Ricky traveled the world as cruise ship entertainment, and were known for helping out other comics in times of need, thus earning their mention in the acclaimed book “I’m Dying Up Here.”
As an activist for LGBTQ and immigration rights, Jimmy has marched on Capitol Hill and been interviewed by several major news outlets. Jimmy was in the original L.A. cast of “HAIR,” and can most recently be seen in music videos for Vince Staples and Kanye West, commercials for Ford, Dollar Shave Club and Fuji Film, and many short films and music videos by a range of today brightest up-and-coming filmmakers.
In short, the well was deep when it came to pulling stories from Jimmy’s life to write Moon Manor. Thus, Jimmy’s real anecdotes and memories are included in the movie, but the character of “Jimmy” is fictional and the story of his last day alive is fiction.
The character and the actor do have one very important thing in common: a belief that death is something to be embraced, not feared, and a desire (if one is privileged enough to be able to make the choice) to have an intentionally designed death, surrounded by ceremony and loved ones.
theBUZZ chatted with Directors, Machete Bang Bang and Erin Granat
This is a great debut co-directorial feature film, but not the first time working together. Erin states, “We met in 8th grade, and have been best friends and collaborators ever since, working on short films, pilots, and music videos, including the likes of Cold Play.”
The film covers some off-beat film topics, like assisted death, and debilitating illness. They share the premise behind the film as, “What is the acceptance of death, and the coming of death, which was somewhat inspired by classic films like, Harold and Maude. It’s a hybrid story, with a narrative built around real life events, and not fully fictional.” It’s described as a Tru-ish story.
So who is Jimmy? He’s a real life actor, and also the main character in the movie. Erin shares, “Ricky was my uncle, so by definition Jimmy is my honorary uncle, and has stayed in my family since Ricky passed away 20 years ago from complications due to AIDS. I grew up to know Jimmy as my uncle, and got to know Ricky through his stories.” Jimmy himself has been living with HIV for over three decades. “This is sort of like a legacy project for him.”
There’s plenty of great vintage film footage throughout, interspersed with wonderful acting, from both present time and flashback to Jimmy’s youth. Several characters stand out, including the writer, Andrew (Lou Taylor Pucci), who has been brought in to document Jimmy’s final day, along with others like Debra Wilson (Fritt the Death Doula), Reshma Gaijar (Remy the Caregiver), and Rikki Lake as herself.
Moon Manor is actually based on a 2017 short film called, Going Home. It’s also what Erin’s family home is called. For the feature, the pair recruited many home based friends and family for the film, including their parents, along with several members from the LGBTQ+ community.
One of the most poignant scenes in the movie is when Jimmy retreats upstairs the final time to complete his cycle of life. The song, “The Promise” by English band, When in Rome, plays while the rest of the invited guests continue dancing the evening away. Erin and Machette mentioned that they crowd sourced to raise money to use this song, and actually wrote the band to get their official approval as well.
A book titled, Going Back to Moon Manor, is referenced at the end of the film, so will there be a book? Erin admits “Jimmy has been working on a memoir for years, so perhaps.”
This is a wonderful film that’s both thoughtful and emotional, and shouldn’t be missed. The film will get a select theatrical release in March 2022, followed by wide spread streaming platforms later in the year.
Filmmakers Erin and Machete met in 9th grade Honors English, but truly bonded when Erin cast Machete as the “Friar” in a gender reversed production of Romeo + Juliet. Growing up together in the Lake Tahoe area, swift connection was found over a love of movies, Fiona Apple, and a desire to head to the bright lights of a big city. They moved to Los Angeles in 2009 and have been making films and memories ever since.
Although they aren’t blood relatives, Erin has known Jimmy since birth as “Uncle Jimmy.” Jimmy was the romantic and creative partner of Erin’s real uncle, Ricky Granat, who passed away in 1986 from an AIDS related illness. Jimmy has remained part of the family ever since. After Erin introduced Machete to Jimmy, Machete instantly started casting him in her projects because duh, he’s brilliant! Does anyone have crackers to go with all this cheese?
Why death as the topic for a first feature?
We’ve both had very personal experiences with death, and thus we’ve found solace in Jimmy’s philosophies on what it means to embrace death, rather than fear it, in discussing the human right to choose how and when one departs from this world.
Moon Manor touches on several topical issues: the positive death movement, LGBTQ rights, living with AIDS, dying with Alzheimer’s, and yet is told with a comedic, irreverent tone. Death is the ultimate universal experience, yet is experienced in a very individual way. Fun. Sad. Terrible. Curious. Terrifying. Filled with love.
We have connected deeply with the death positive community. In October 2019 we were awarded a grant to screen an early cut of the movie at Reimagine End of Life in San Francisco, a citywide exploration of death through creativity. We hope to help advance terms like “death doula” and “the positive death movement” to no longer be fringe ideas, but mainstream concepts. Just showing the teaser to people has been enough to spark conversation and debate. If in ten years we look back and the film is relatable to those living and dying, then we made the film we set out to create. Read this Screencraft interview with the filmmakers to find our some more fun behind the scenes details.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.