Published Apr 24, 2013Guelph, Ontario's well-known strip club, "The Manor", is a place known for titillation, libations and sexually charged entertainment. For Canadian director Shawney Cohen it plays a very different role in his life; a role that is far from anything sexual or perverse. As an aspiring filmmaker, he examines how the business has changed the course of his family in his debut documentary The Manor.
Cohen's family has owned "The Manor" since he was 6-years-old, which has afforded his family a comfortable lifestyle due to the financial gains a successful strip club has to offer.
Now in his mid-30s, Shawney has returned home to help his family at a time of peril. His father weighs in excess of 400 pounds while his aging mother is fading away from anorexia. Meanwhile, his younger brother has become so heavily entwined in the business that he is dating one of the exotic dancers and slipping deeper into morally conflicted territory.
Filmed over the span of four years, Cohen explores how his father's decision to purchase a strip club 30 years prior has changed his family's lives. The documentarian struggles with being associated to the club and being sucked into the routine and familiarity of running the business, while his brother Sammy enjoys the recognition and ego boost he receives from his involvement.
Most shocking are the implications the strip club has had on the marriage of parents Roger and Brenda. Unspoken issues in the relationship have physically manifested in vastly different ways, leading to denial and arguments.
Oddly, and possibly due to the director's personal ties with his subjects, there aren't many revelations, which is ultimately what makes The Manor intriguing. This isn't the Kardashian family but a Jewish-Canadian family that has built its own humble empire of sorts.
Upon the conclusion, it's hard not to wonder what the point of it all was, yet the memorable characters leave a lasting impression that is hard to shake off.
Compelling for the duration of its 78-minute runtime, The Manor plays in a similar "car crash on the highway" way that 2012's The Queen of Versailles did.
Anyone looking for a seedy exposé of the nightlife and comely nude women will walk away disappointed, as Cohen's focus shies away from the club itself and focuses more so on the struggles of a truly dysfunctional family. (Six Island Productions)