Director: Richard Ayoade
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska
Jesse Eisenberg is a polarizing figure, a fact that has never been more emphasized than in this equally polarizing film. Or perhaps a better word would be 'exact', as he & The Double have a personality & a feel that you had better connect with exactly if you are to have any hope of enjoying your devoted time. I've historically found the guy off-putting, with roles that I didn't love in movies I didn't really like: Adventureland, The Social Network, To Rome with Love, Now You See Me. Like I said, he either hits you perfectly or else he skips off the surface, leaving you more annoyed than affected. Luckily, in The Double, not only did he strike me as brilliant but the film itself kept its promise to be brilliantly weird, culminating in an entertaining ninety minutes that felt perfectly aimed at my exact tastes.
Living in a dreary, modern, industrialized dystopia, Simon basically doesn't exist. He punches the clock at an all-powerful data company, goes home to his depressing apartment, and has spent the last seven years making no impression on anyone. He obsesses about the girl across the way, Hannah, but never speaks to her, can't get recognized by the security guard who has seen Simon's face a thousand times, will never work up the courage to propose new ideas to the head of his department, and is generally dying one long day at a time. But his stable world rocks when a new employee arrives at work, a man named James. James happens to be Simon's last name and this James happens to have the exact same face as Simon. No one else seems to notice, but Simon feels his miserable life slipping away even more quickly as this James person begins to be & do all the things that Simon always wished he would have the strength to make happen. The two begin an odd friendship, their existences entertwining, but only one of them can claim the space that both now occupy.
It's a strange concept, yet not one that's unheard of. Many movies have tried the idea; two personas exhibiting different sides of one character. There's a battle of sorts, someone comes out on top, lessons are learned; not to wild. The story actually came from a Fyodor Dostoevsky novel written in 1846, and so has a social/political feel that still translates well to the screen. The film also has a bit of a Terry Gilliam air, coming across as a new take on Brazil. So, director Richard Ayoade had a ton to work with, a few recycled ideas to make fresh, and he succeeded in balancing the old with the new. As I mentioned, this role from Jesse Eisenberg struck the right cord when many of his others failed to do so. The movie itself was quirky and funny in exactly the way I like, randomly lining up with my taste level in a way I hadn't anticipated. Will the film please everyone in the same way? Most definitely not. It's extremely odd, shot strangely, laced with offbeat humor, and decidedly morbid. It's a difficult picture to recommend, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed, enough to hope that this review entices you even knowing that you might not thank me later.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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