MOVIE REVIEW: ‘The Double’

the double

Film: The Double
Directed By: Richard Ayoade
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska

Submarine, Richard Ayoade’s bittersweet 2010 coming-of-age tale, introduced the funnyman as a filmmaker with the sort of eye for simple, nostalgic and effective storytelling that would suggest he likely cites Wes Anderson as a primary influence. With The Double, his second feature as writer/director, Ayoade retains that level of intimacy while bringing a variety of other influences to the table. The result is a story that feels all too familiar, even if it’s brought to life by a captivating dual performance from Jesse Eisenberg.

The Double is an example of perfect casting in that it allows Eisenberg to play each of the two personas he has managed to master over the course of his career. We’re first introduced to timid introvert (think Adventureland or Zombieland) Simon James, an office drone plugging numbers in a mysterious factory that appears to be the center of the film’s gloomy dystopia.

James goes unnoticed at the office and the door man never recognizes him, despite the fact that he’s held the same job for seven years. He also has a crush on the cute girl at the copy desk (Mia Wasikowska) and makes up stories about his printer not working so he can pay her random visits, but never actually talks to her.

But when both of them witness the suicide of a neighbor, James sees an opportunity to get closer to the cute copy chick. Sitting in a dingy diner discussing the stranger’s fatal leap from the balcony with James, copy chick makes it clear that she is either completely naive or just oblivious to his crush. “Maybe he just wanted someone to notice him. I mean, a person can get sick of just walking by…”

No shit.

Anyway, a new employee appears at the office the next day. He looks just like Simon James, but he couldn’t be more opposite. This is where Eisenberg’s second persona comes into play, that of the narcissistic asshole (think The Social Network). Oh, and his name is James Simon. Clever, huh?

I know, not really.

At first, the asshole Eisenberg offers some helpful advice to the timid Eisenberg about how he can improve his position with the company and his chances of scoring with cute copy chick. But is it better to go unnoticed for who you truly are or be adored for someone you aren’t — or even worse, someone you despise? Which of these two is a more lonely predicament? I think you know the answer. At least, I hope so.

As they tend to do in these stories, the line begins to blur and things quickly get out of hand. Ayoade seems compelled to push his own limits as a filmmaker and expand upon his repertoire with a heavy-handed piano and subway noise-driven soundtrack, disorienting camera angles and shadowing straight out of the ’40s film noir playbook. But The Double has a very clear and obvious message. The fact that we’re receiving it through the filters of smoky lighting and a retro-futuristic set design doesn’t make it any less overdone.

If nothing else, Submarine fans will be happy to see the entire cast of Submarine pop up for some brief cameos in The Double. That is, of course, until they realize they should have just stayed home and watched Submarine again on Netflix in the first place.

Grade: C-

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