Review: LADY OF THE MANOR, A Slack Modern-Day Stoner/Ghost Story

Melanie Lynskey, Judy Greer, Justin Long and Ryan Phillipe star in a ghostly comedy, directed by Christian Long and Justin Long.

Lead Critic; San Francisco, California
Review: LADY OF THE MANOR, A Slack Modern-Day Stoner/Ghost Story

In Justin and Christian Long’s sporadically amusing, ultimately disposable Lady of the Manor, Melanie Lynskey’s stoner-slacker character, Hannah, has 99 problems and a ghost played by Judy Greer is one.

Hannah isn’t afraid of the title character, Lady Wadsworth, a Reconstruction-Era ghost who died under mysterious circumstances (her husband and a staircase were involved). Lady Wadsworth is more corporeal than most, actually, wandering through the mansion or night like a forlorn cosplayer without a convention to attend.

As such, the supernatural element in Lady of the Manor is just that, an element, used not to generate scares of any kind, but as the source of minor tension, suspense, and on occasion conflict between the well-bred, pre-feminist title character and Lynskey’s perpetually disheveled, unkempt, unemployed (and unemployable) Hannah.

When we first meet Hannah, though, she’s living down to her own, incredibly low expectations for herself, binging true-crime shows, getting mildly stoned, and making drug deliveries to pay for her half of the expenses in the apartment she shares with her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend, Todd (Alex Klein). After  an inadvertent drop-off at the wrong location leaves her temporarily in jail, Todd kicks her out, leading, somewhat inexplicably, to Hannah meeting Tanner (Ryan Phillippe), the smug, entitled, utterly selfish heir to the Wadsworth manor and, apparently, fortune. Like meeting like, Tanner invites Hannah to live in work at the manor in exchange for leading daily tours as his long-dead ancestor.

That ill-fitting set-up finally gets Lady of the Manor where it truly shines: Lynskey and Greer’s characters crossing paths at the manor, taking an instant dislike to each other before the inevitable 180 where they learn to appreciate each other’s strengths. (Lady Wadsworth needs to learn to chill, Hannah to grow up before it’s too late and actually take responsibility for her life). The easy charm and chemistry between Lynskey and Greer (playing it fairly straight here) and the charged friction between the two characters, especially after Hannah gives in and attempts to learn the ways of 19th-century women, gives Lady of the Manor a much-needed lift and/or kick.

Unfortunately, just about everything surrounding Lynskey and Greer doesn’t live up to their respective talents. Justin and Christian Long’s script leans too heavily on low humor (a recurring joke about farting as one example) that isn’t anywhere near as funny as they think it is. The second half’s overly convoluted plot where Hannah, until then defined by inaction and inertia, decides to become an amateur sleuth with her ghostly best friend as company, attempts to touch on the South’s complicated history with race, segregation, and income inequality, but never goes beyond a surface-deep exploration, instead using two other characters, Nia (Tamara Austin) and her brother, Marcus (Wallace Jean), as figurative props for Hannah’s belated journey into adulthood.

It’s almost enough to leave the equivalent of a sour taste to an otherwise light, lightweight supernatural comedy, one that leans far too heavily on Lynskey and Greer to get through rough patches in a script that should have received two or four more passes before it went before the cameras. Lady of the Manor isn’t helped by the Long Brothers’ obvious inexperience behind the camera, either.

Shot flatly with even lighting throughout (a budget-saving measure no doubt), Lady of the Manor has little to recommend it on a visual level, though a blooper reel running through the end credits suggests the better, more engaging, funnier film viewers should have received but didn’t.

Lady of the Manor is now playing in select theaters and is also available to watch via various Video On Demand providers.

Lady of the Manor

  • Christian Long
  • Justin Long
  • Christian Long
  • Justin Long
  • Melanie Lynskey
  • Judy Greer
  • Justin Long
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Christian LongJudy GreerJustin LongLady of the ManorLuis GuzmánMelanie LynskeyRyan PhillippeComedy

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