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Parents' Guide to

Lady of the Manor

By Monique Jones, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Crass comedy has strong language and sexual, drug content.

Movie R 2021 96 minutes
Lady of the Manor Poster Image

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Lady of the Manor is a frustrating watch on several levels. For one thing, it's not funny. The film seems to believe that including tons of crass humor and putting characters in grossly sexual or awkward predicaments is the way to earn laughs. Instead, all the film succeeds at is alienating viewers. The "humor" also unintentionally reinforces the fact that Hannah is completely unlikable. While she's supposed to be a subversion of the classic male schlub -- simply by virtue of being a woman -- she shows how the "slacker stoner" conceit doesn't always work, regardless of gender. Her character is devoid of common sense -- and anything else that might remotely connect her to viewers. For instance, even the most stoned person would recognize that college professor Max (Justin Long) has meetings with his students in his office or in the classroom. But Hannah nonsensically believes that Max is having sexual role-play liaisons with them. It's not funny; instead, it's frustrating. Even more frustrating is the film having the nerve to suggest that Hannah and Max could have any type of romantic relationship, even though they have nothing in common. She constantly calls him a "nerd," and he's simply too smart and well-adjusted for someone like her. It's clear that they're only thrown together for the film's sake. It also doesn't help that, because of some supposedly "hilarious" hijinks, Hannah is mistaken for being a sex offender. Having this somehow be part of a comedy of errors isn't as funny as the film believes.

And then there's the fact that Lady of the Manor tries to approach the topic of racial politics but just ends up reinforcing the stereotypes it wants to combat. Lady Wadsworth reveals that she left her home to her "best friend" Josephine and her family. But her husband changed her will after her death and kept the home in his family. The film totally glosses over the brutality of slavery during this time in Savannah. In Lady Wadsworth's time, it would have been rare for any well-to-do White family to give any property to a Black person, "best friend" or not. And in a flashback, it appears that Josephine is an enslaved person. Could she and Lady Wadsworth truly be best friends with that kind of power imbalance? Worst of all, her family's descendants still work as servants to the Wadsworth family in the present before the will double-cross is revealed, leaving viewers to suspect that the two families have had a servant-master relationship for decades, if not a full century. Perhaps there could have been a story within this dynamic if the film was fully equipped to deal with the subject matter. But it isn't, since even though the film is actually about Josephine's family regaining property that was stolen from them, the story focuses on an inept White woman's struggle to be a decent person. As such, it barely gives its characters of color anything to do, save for delivering exposition or acting as the "straight man" in supposedly funny scenes. Lady of the Manor might be billed as a comedy involving a Reconstruction-era ghost, but the film is definitely dead on arrival.

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