Movie Review: “The Manor”- Stripped Down and Nothing to Show

Written by Rachel Ganzewinkel June 19, 2013

themanor“The Manor” is a Canadian documentary and was featured in the “Hot Docs” fest. It’s about a Jewish family who own a strip club and the trials and tribulations that arise out of owning and running such a scandalous business. It’s more sad dysfunction than Bluth family shenanigans as the eldest son, Shawney Cohen, takes his dream of being a filmmaker and makes his intimate family moments public (for some reason).

So, what is Shawney Cohen’s point in exposing his family and its business?

Honestly, I don’t really know. When the film starts it seems like the documentary is going to take you deep inside the family’s function, and lack thereof. However, the film mostly scratches the surface as to why Shawney’s father even bought a strip club, and the goings-on and drama behind the scenes of such a culturally taboo business. If someone were to ask you to picture a strip club owner, what comes to mind? I highly doubt an obese 60 year old with coke bottle glasses is what you think of though. And that is just the beginning of the strange but interesting nature of this now struggling strip club in Guelph.

The Cohen’s Dysfunction

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The dysfunction is where the doc gets real. Shawney’s mother suffers from anorexia. It is painful to watch. She is a slave to her disease and her physical and mental frailties just add to an overall juvenile demeanor that is heartbreaking. This woman has been the wife to a man who owns a strip club, clearly giving her insecurities. But the film only scratches the surface of this issue. As a viewer I wanted to know why her husband even bought a strip club in the first place, and why he never sold it when this “gentlemen’s club” (serving clientele who are far from gentlemen) was clearly causing his wife distress. Shawney even wants to get out of the business, but the easy work kept him there for 5 years. He also works alongside a violent ex-con who has been in and out of jail his whole life. Shawney’s brother seems to be the only one who actually enjoys running the strip club. I can only assume the T & A and the power he holds over his female employees is what keeps this egotistical man there.

The Painful Reality of the Cohen Family

The reality I speak of is each and every one of the family member’s insistence that they are fine. The mother thinks she’s fine and doesn’t need help because she’s eating. But at 85 lbs., that’s doubtful. The husband on the other hand is like 370 lbs and has trouble breathing with the slightest movement. The wife loves to cook, the husband loves to eat, and the whole thing just screams couple’s counselling. The younger son has issues with women, Shawney just has issues with life. He has no idea what he’s doing and seems to stay stuck at the strip club for the lame reason that he can’t imagine his life without it because he’s been there for his whole life. I guess he’s taking a step forward with making this film, but ultimately I feel nothing comes from it.

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Overall

This documentary is just as stuck as the Cohen family. The final shot of all of them eating a dinner together is heartbreakingly optimistic. The shot makes it seem that the family will be okay because they’ve survived this long being so dysfunctional so they can continue this way. I would have to disagree. While some attempt at change occurs, ultimately everyone stays stuck in their own illness. The mother and father in their respective eating disorders, and Shawney and his brother in their respective relationship problems. It is not okay to let such large issues remain unresolved. Living in a state of unhappiness is not what people want, but through this documentary, it seems that’s the message Cohen is putting out there. It’s not that great a message. Even within the movie, nothing really gets delved into. On this film’s attempt to strip down and bare it all, it’s such a shame that the end product didn’t have anything substantial underneath.

My Rating: 6/10

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About Rachel Ganzewinkel

Rachel loves movies and writing and has found the perfect amalgamation in writing movie reviews for We Eat Films. In between movie watching and the real-life world of work, she enjoys tea, reading, writing, and wearing over-size sweaters (while occassionally doing some of these simultaneously).

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1 Comment

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  1. I agree with you people don’t change. However a church now holds their service at the manor. Yup a church in a strip club. So many people are being transformed by God especially the dad. Now that’s an interesting doc.

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