When kingly protagonists are toppled from their thrones, it can inspire terror and pity—or so Aristotle said. But when a pompous, self-important twit slips on the dramaturgical banana peel, it's mostly just good for a laugh.
Trevor (Lucas Akoskin), the title character in The Doorman—an improvisatory mockumentary from director Wayne Price—is not exactly Oedipus Rex, so you can guess that his undoing will be met with laughs and not groans of dismay. It isn't that Trevor doesn't start out wielding considerable power. He is, after all, one of the world's most sought-after doormen, called upon to guard the portals of exclusive clubs and private parties internationally. No gruff, intimidating gatekeeper, Trevor uses affability and sex appeal to charm those who clamor to get past the velvet rope. This invites a lot of fawning, flattering, and air-kissing of his grinning-dolphin face. And Trevor has clearly charmed himself more than anyone else. "I know people," he says—explaining the secret of his success. "But more importantly, I know people who know me."
Yet one little slip-up in this world of smoke and mirrors, and even the hottest doorman will quickly be shown the gate. One evening, Trevor excludes someone who decidedly should not have been excluded, and suddenly he's red-carpet poison. Worse, a documentary crew—headed by director Wayne Price (playing himself)—is in the midst of shooting a film about Trevor. The filmmakers now must chronicle not only the doorman's humiliating fall from grace but also his desperate efforts to redeem himself.
Argentinean-born Akoskin is terrific in the scenes where Trevor pretends to Price and company that all remains well in his world. Scoffing at the idea that he's no longer working at his home-base nightclub, his eyes dart with panic. The grilling continues: Is he certain that he was at the club when the crew couldn't find him? "Pretty sure, yeah," he mutters. Throughout, Akoskin's Trevor mangles English with impunity. Desperate for Price to get the cameras out of his face during his hour of crisis, he sputters, "We should be done soon, isn't it?" Later, in an explosion of denial, he insists: "I deedih gih fire! I deedih gih fire!" (That's "I didn't get fired!")
With a Christopher Guest mockumentary (A Mighty Wind, Best in Show), it is fairly easy to tell that the whole thing is a put-on. There's a telltale jokey edge in the performances—especially when a shticky clown such as Eugene Levy is involved. The Doorman is subtler. For the most part, if you didn't know better, you would swear that it was a doc, not a mock. That's partly because Price includes so much footage of real-life events (Fashion Week in New York) and real-life celebrities (Peter Bogdanovich and—in one of the film's funniest scenes—Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's Thom Filicia). And it's partly because Akoskin's restrained (though certainly energetic) performance seems to inspire verisimilitude in his fellow players.
One sequence, involving Trevor's adoptive grandmother (Letty Serra) and her much younger companion (Matthew Mabe), goes over the top. And the film's final scenes veer into the preposterous. But mostly the film retains its equilibrium, its entertaining illusion of reality gone—just perceptibly—askew.
And there's a sweetness in the film's third act. As Trevor tries to hang on to shreds of his former glory, his optimism and resilience, however vainglorious, come off as admirably plucky. He may no longer turn the world on with his smile, but love is all around—just as long as a mirror is within reach.
Reviewed by Mark Dundas Wood