The Manor (2013) ****
Dir. Shawney Cohen
Review By Greg Klymkiw
When you are next in picturesque Guelph, OntarioPlease make sure to visit the exquisite gentleman's clubTHE MANOR
A very special ALL NEW treat awaits Gentlemen of Distinction.
The Bottle Service Lounge includes everything you could possibly want for the ultimate night out: Front row seating for all major events, your own private waitress, shower shows and comfortable leather couches in your own section.
So you're a six-year-old red-blooded male and your Dad buys a strip club attached to a dive hotel and it becomes the family business wherein you, your little brother and Mom pitch in.
Sounds like a good deal to me.
Even better is that during the first few years the business was operating, your family lived in a suite above the finest Gentleman's Club in Southern Ontario (Le meilleur club pour les messieurs dans le sud de l'Ontario).
Sorry, bro', but this is sounding mighty win-win to me.
I'll admit, though, that time and maturity play nasty tricks on us and in your case, a quarter of a century later, those halcyon days don't seem so golden - if, in fact, they ever were. For example, as a kid, you'd wake up thirsty in the middle of the night, pad down to the bar and pour yourself a Coke from the taps. You remember that during this time, you didn't, for even a second think there was anything "weird" about this.
Hey, bud, why should you? Sounds like some kind of crazy living wet dream to me.
But no, not to you. These days you look around and see your patriarchal 400-pound Dad brashly bullying his way through life, your gentle subservient 85-pound Mom hiding further and further within herself, your baby brother dreaming of owning his own strip club and dating the "help" and you think, is there something wrong with this picture? Is there something wrong with me?
Then you gaze in the mirror and see someone who has not lived up to his potential.
Well, maybe it's not all peaches and cream.
What I see, however, is the kind of filmmaker I dreamed about getting my mitts on during the 13 years I was the Senior Creative Consultant and Producer-in-Residence at Uncle Norm Jewison's Canadian Film Centre.
You know why? You've done what many of them couldn't even dream of doing. You just made one hell of a terrific movie and frankly, your life experience and the talent you display suggests to me that we're going to see some totally amazing work from you in the future.
Director Shawney Cohen, the aforementioned young whippersnapper I was addressing above, clearly needed to explore this situation - if only for himself - but in reality, this process of exploration has yielded something very, very special for all of us. He shot The Manor over a three year period with unfettered access to his parents and their world. What he's crafted here for his first feature is a lovely picture about family, love, loyalty, caring and conflict against the backdrop of a (for some) unconventional setting.
This is one corker of an entertaining movie.
Shawney himself guides us on the journey. His initially dour and vaguely judgemental attitude rubbed me the wrong way, but as the movie progressed, my perception shifted to genuine admiration as the more sour aspects of his character (once he gets a girlfriend, actually) transform into a very moving display of love and caring.
Besides, in both life and art, someone's got to have a voice of reason.
What Cohen does here is pretty damn extraordinary. He exposes a slice of his family's (to some) strange life and makes it completely relatable to everyone. I love how I came to love this family - especially his Dad - a no nonsense, stubborn and unapologetically irascible old curmudgeon who might not always do things the right way, but in his own way, he thinks he's doing the right thing. One of my best friends remarked how frighteningly similar Shawney's Dad was to both my own Dad and, uh, ME. I took it as a compliment. And yes, it was meant as one.
There is, always, a lot of talk about dysfunctional families and there's been much of that in relation to The Manor - even within the film and its promo bumph. I hate that expression. I especially don't believe in how people spread it around like cow shit on the lawn. Unless a family is identical to the fucking Cleavers on Leave it to Beaver, ALL families are dysfunctional - it's simply a matter of degrees.
What I see when I watch Cohen's film is a genuine patriarch presiding over his wife, sons, home and business - old school, for sure - but he is a REAL MAN who LOVES his family. He might not always be choosing the best way to express it, but express it he does.
The Manor, as a slice of life, delivers a great story that's finally all about love.
And why not?
Love is the ultimate unifying force and though many things threaten to split it apart, love - as always - has the last laugh.
"The Manor" is playing at the Hot Docs 2013 Film Festival. For showtimes and tickets, visit the festival's website HERE. It will be released via Kinosmith.
Now Folks, when you're in Guelph, please patronize THE MANOR - I've been there myself and I can personally attest to its abundance of charm. For info, visit the website HERE.
AND LADIES, "THE MANOR" IS A TRULY FEMINIST GENTLEMAN'S CLUB. HOT DOCS GALS MAY WISH TO PARTAKE IN "LADIES NIGHT" ON THE LAST NIGHT OF THE FILM FESTIVAL TO CELEBRATE A GREAT WEEK OF BUSINESS AND PLEASURE!