Let me just start by saying this: In the world we live in, the poor always get exploited by the rich. There is no way around this cold, hard fact, as we are all part of a capitalist society that most of us have accepted. I understand, this is not exactly what you would expect to read at the start of a movie review, but Avan Jogia’s debut feature, Door Mouse, sort of demands this contemplation. The Canadian actor-singer, who previously directed two very exciting shorts, shows his full potential here and confidently tells a kind of story that we might have heard before, but never really with this much style and precision. A kind of uber-coolness oozes out of literally every frame of Door Mouse, but the movie doesn’t just rely on that. Instead, it builds up a very relevant story, chapter by chapter, and delivers a scintillating climax in the end.
In Door Mouse, a comic book writer by afternoon and burlesque club worker by night, Mouse, along with her friend Ugly, investigates the mysterious disappearance of her colleague in the club, Doe Eyes. The investigation spirals into a series of chaotic events, and Mouse finds herself in the thick of a sinister operation being run by a group of evil people. Famke Janssen, whose most popular role is still Jean Grey in the original X-Men movies, plays the club owner, who appears to be a mother figure to Mouse, but with a twist that you would probably see coming from a mile away. However, it is not an obvious sort of twist, which would have probably made things a bit too illogical.
While the film initially hinges on the male gender taking advantage of the female gender, all thanks to their male privileges, it eventually becomes clear that the main deal here is the upper-class section of a capitalist society exploiting the lower-class section, and our main character can’t stand that. The poor get severely oppressed by the rich in this film, which ends up taking a solid stand against everything that is wrong with our society. It is particularly fascinating to watch, because Mouse is an individual whose life is an amalgamation of trauma, who wakes up every morning with the feeling of existential dread and the taste of terrible coffee, and her career as a comic book author doesn’t take off either. There is this odd satisfaction in seeing a broken person fighting fascism, irrespective of what her life looks like.
Coming back to the male versus female aspect of the movie, Door Mouse doesn’t put the two genders against each other, but the fairer gender is prioritized, rightfully. Ten-fifteen years ago, in a story like this one, the men would have probably taken center stage, but Door Mouse is a movie of our time where a woman is a savior and another one is the sinner. This is not a spoiler, but yes, the de facto villain of „Door Mouse” happens to be a woman as well, and it is not someone you’d expect. The male characters of the movie are carefully placed around the narrative, and most of them are actually fairly decent. There is this guy named Eddie, who frequents the club for one of Mouse’s friends and colleagues, but stays on, even after the girl goes missing. The bartender at the club is named Sweets. A sleazy pimp with a name as ridiculous as Craw Daddy happens to have some sort of moral code. A drug dealer, who is also Mouse’s ex, played by director Avan Jogia himself, is described as bad news and eventually turns out to be a man with a heart. And then there is Ryan, aka Ugly, a rich guy who has rejected all his privileges to be there for Mouse, irrespective of whether his romantic feelings get reciprocated.
As far as the performances go, Hayley Law as Mouse is phenomenal. Appearing in almost every single scene and also narrating the story, Law has done a brilliant job and given a star-making performance. She is ably supported by the supporting cast, where Keith Power and Famke Janssen are particularly impressive as Ugly and Mama, respectively. The look and feel of Door Mouse are cold, filled with dread, akin to how Mouse is feeling, which has been expressed with the use of lots of green and blue colors, cool tones, and a brilliant soundtrack that is bound to be added to many of our favorite Spotify playlists in the near future.
In many ways, Door Mouse works as a wish fulfillment of sorts. In spite of having a story about an issue like woman trafficking and mostly holding onto gritty pragmatism, it deliberately pulls you into a world where taking out of a monstrous beast seems as easy as lighting a cigarette and coolly entering a room with a gun in hand. This approach obviously makes it very cinematic and entertaining for the audience. Cinema as a medium has often served simultaneously as a reflection of the society we live in as well as the imagination we have inside our heads. Mouse’s comic books don’t have any takers at the beginning of the movie, but the moment she starts imbuing her work with stories of her own life, her fortune as a writer suddenly changes. There can be two Interpretations here. The good one is, that people always take an interest in things, to which they can relate. And the bad one is, that the world is filled with perverts, who find reading about women getting kidnapped and tortured by despicable men for fun gratifying.
Either way, Door Mouse manages to show how this world really functions, and in a true Tarantino-esque manner, it serves us a bloody good, utterly satisfying, very impactful climax, which might seem far-fetched in terms of logic, but is very impactful, if you think about the context. Mouse voices her disapproval for average Joe getting bit by radioactive spiders and getting superheroic abilities or Super Soldiers waking up after being frozen in ice for years, which is clearly a playful jibe at comic-book-movies because Door Mouse itself unfolds like a graphic novel and even uses animation in parts, which works fantastically. At the end of the day, though, the thing for which this film should be lauded is the anti-empire stance it takes. I would even go the distance and call this film the cinematic expression of the iconic line from Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Persepolis – Punk is not dead.