I recently got a hold of a screener of The Doorman, an indie film in my favorite genre: the mockumentary. It follows Trevor W. (Lucas Akoskin), a doorman at one of New York’s trendiest night clubs. Trevor is drunk on his own power, and considers himself a fashion icon and powerbroker. As he puts it, in his amorphous Latin accent, “I know people but, more importantly, I know people who know me.”
Akoskin’s Trevor reminds me of the sort of self-important characters that Ben Stiller plays, and Akoskin has Stiller’s same enthusiasm for looking ridiculous. Trevor’s delusions meet reality when he makes a rookie mistake and gets blacklisted in ‘the industry.’ He tries other careers as a model, actor and pop star before ending up as a doorman at a decidedly less-trendy club.
The Doorman does the Borat trick of mixing in real people and celebrities, some of whom don’t appear to be in on the gag. The best of the bunch is an extended power lunch with Peter Bogdanovich, who plays a wonderful straight man. The worst is an unfunny scene where Tom Filicia from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy tries to convince Trevor that he is gay. The filmmakers should’ve noted that Sacha Baron Cohen’s Brüno, a similar character to Trevor in many ways, works best when he is tweaking the homophobia of people he’s interacting with, not catering to that of the audience.
In addition to following the travails of Trevor, The Doorman actually sheds some light on the real and fascinating world of doorman. It included interviews with real doormen and scenes where they play themselves (relishing denying fellow doorman Trevor).
While it’s not in the same league classic mockumentaries like This is Spinal Tap or Waiting for Guffman, The Doorman has laughs throughout and makes good use of the social set’s willingness to satirize themselves. I could’ve done with fewer music montages (although the soundtrack, by Brazilian Girls, is quite good) and more plot. This 70 minute feature started out as a short, and it still has only about a short’s worth of story. When it is funny, you forgive the padding. But like a social climber on the other side of the velvet rope, occasionally you can smell the desperation to be somebody he or she isn’t.
It is the enthusiasm of Akoskin’s performance that helps The Doorman overcome its faults. With series like Klaus Pierre and Improv Everywhere, there seems to be a new generation following in the footsteps of mockumentarians like Christopher Guest and Sacha Baron Cohen. I look forward to what they, and Akoskin and his co-writer/director Wayne Price can do with more experience and bigger budgets.
UPDATE: LA Theatrical Release on Friday, Sept 12 at Laemmle Sunset