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Movie Review: The Manor

May 10, 2013

The Manor PosterThe Manor – A KinoSmith Release

http://www.themanordocumentary.com

Release Date: May 10th, 2013 @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Rated 14A for coarse language, nudity and sexual content

Running time: 78 minutes

Shawney Cohen (dir.)

Mike Gallay (co-dir.)

Jim Guthrie (music)

Shawney Cohen as Himself

Roger Cohen as Himself

Brenda Cohen as Herself

Sammy Cohen as Himself

Bobby Ranger as Himself

Susan Dent as Herself

Gillian Brown as Herself

The Manor

©KinoSmith.  All Rights Reserved.

Sammy Cohen, Roger Cohen and Shawney Cohen in The Manor.

Our reviews below:

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The Manor Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

The opening night selection for the recently wrapped Hot Docs, The Manor is an intimate portrait of a uniquely dysfunctional family that was among my personal favourites of the festival.  Now that it’s playing in limited release, the film is absolutely worth seeking out.

When Shawney Cohen was six, his father Roger invested in the family business, a strip club in Guelph, Ontario where he was raised with his younger brother Sammy.  Turning the camera on himself and his eccentric family, Shawney returns to the Manor as an adult, to tend the strip club while his severely overweight Dad goes in for stomach surgery, and his severely underweight Mom struggles to finally confront her eating disorders.  With the eccentric ex-convict Bobby as their assistant, and a plethora of naked women in the background, the family struggles to finally overcome the challenges that come when a strip club is the one thing keeping them together.

There are many wonderfully absurd moments of humour throughout The Manor, with lines of dialogue and situations that won’t soon be forgotten.  But the film also plays as a compelling family drama, with real life characters who we genuinely hope will turn out okay, and moments of heartbreak as we get the sense that some of these problems won’t soon be resolved.  These are real people who we glimpse in their actual lives, and this makes the film all the more satisfying.  Because even as things keep taking a turn for the worse, we never get the sense that this Jewish family doesn’t love each other in their own ways.

There is something immensely watchable about this film, right through to the perfect symbolism of the bittersweet final scene.  As an incredibly entertaining documentary that seamlessly moves between comedy and tragedy, The Manor is priceless.

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The Manor Review by Erin V.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Two weeks ago, The Manor played as the opening night film at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto.  On the surface the documentary is about a small strip club and motel in Guelph, Ontario, but really it becomes more of a look into family that runs it.

Directed by Shawn Cohen – son of the owners, and manager at the club two nights a week – the film is an intimate look into their family life, the club, and Shawn’s own story of trying to figure out what he really wants to do rather than just inherit the family business.

The film is quiet and understated at times, but really succeeds in painting a portrait of this family – from Shawn’s mother who struggles with anorexia and his father with over-eating, to his relationship with his younger brother and the others in their lives.  Due to the subject matter, there is some nudity (as expected) in the film, but for adults, The Manor is a well-made documentary worth seeing.

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The Manor Review by Nicole

*** (out of 4)

The Manor follows a dysfunctional family as they go about their business of running a strip club.  Filmmaker and family member Shawney Cohen takes the viewer through his family’s lives.  His father Roger runs a “gentleman’s club” called The Manor out of Guelph, Ontario.  Roger is satisfied with his business and he wants his sons to take on the career.  But Shawney wants to do other, more normal things, such as filmmaking.  However, younger son Sammy is happy with the club, and would be quite willing to take it on.

His girlfriend Gillian, however, notices a problem with the Cohen family.  The mother Brenda is dangerously thin due to a severe eating disorder.  She refuses to eat much, and uses laxatives, leaving her emaciated.  Brenda gets joy from the animals, both wild and tame, that share the Cohen home.  Everyday, she remarks on the swan couple that reside at a nearby pond, and spends time with the family dog and cat that live with them.

Roger has a different kind of problem.  He overeats, and requires stomach surgery to curb his voracious appetite.  The Manor provides an interesting look at the human condition.  Roger’s assistant, Bobby, is an ex-con who is trying to get his life back on track.  Sue, the manager of the adjacent motel Sue’s Inn, struggles with depression and drug addiction.  And throughout the film, there are surreal shots of the strippers passing through the office naked, as if this were just their uniform.

If you are interested in psychology, sociology or unique family dynamics, then The Manor is an interesting documentary to check out.

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The Manor Review by Maureen

*** (out of 4)

There aren’t too many families that would be comfortable having their personal challenges and family problems captured on camera for strangers to see.  Fortunately, Shawney Cohen from Guelph, Ontario thought his experience of growing up around the family business, a strip club called The Manor, would be interesting to other people.  He was right.  His documentary called The Manor is a heartfelt look at a family who, despite their individual flaws, truly care about each other and the people they work with.

Dad Roger Cohen owns and runs the strip club.  He tries to run a no nonsense “gentleman’s club” and clearly believes in giving people a second chance.  His assistant manager, an ex-convict named Bobby Ranger is like a third son to him.  Roger’s health is an ongoing issue as he is an obese compulsive overeater.  By contrast, Mom Brenda Cohen has an obvious eating disorder and is severely underweight.  Her struggles are one of the most touching parts of the film.

Helping run the club are oldest son Shawney and younger brother Sammy.  Shawney has mixed feelings about the family business and would prefer to be a filmmaker.  If The Manor is any indication of his abilities, then it looks like he’s finally found his calling.  Sammy, it seems, likes the strip club industry and no matter what happens in the future will continue his father’s legacy.

The Manor isn’t a judgement on the strip club and exotic dancing industry.  Rather it’s an honest look at a family who try and look out for one another no matter what.  There are many touching and humorous moments in the film that provide an entertaining 78 minutes.

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The Manor Review by Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

The Manor, a strip club in Guelph ON, is the Cohen family business. Filmmaker Shawney Cohen still works there two nights a week but lacks the commitment of his younger brother Sammy and parents Roger and Brenda, children of Holocaust survivors who founded the place. Outside the family a bilingual ex-con helps manage the club and a woman with substance issues runs the cheap hotel housing most of the entertainers that is attached to the club.

The Manor provides an intimate view of a family that, aside from all the naked women in the background, is traditional in many ways, surviving serious challenges, particularly the strange combination of Roger’s morbid obesity and Brenda’s anorexia.

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Consensus: Directed by Shawney Cohen who turns the camera on his family and the strip club they run, The Manor is a documentary that is both entertaining and heartbreaking, providing an interesting look at a unique situation.  ***1/4 (Out of 4)

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