The Double looks unique but it’s also a self-conscious film that has forgettable characters and a weak intentionally obscured plot. Whatever else is there can already be seen in more interesting oddities such as Brazil, Kafka, and Eraserhead.
Eisenberg plays Simon, a timid, isolated man who’s overlooked at work, scorned by his mother, and ignored by the woman of his dreams (Wasikowska). The arrival of a new co-worker, James (also played by Eisenberg), serves to upset the balance. James is both Simon’s exact physical double and his opposite – confident, charismatic and good with women. To Simon’s horror, James slowly starts taking over his life. (c) Magnolia
The Double is an adaptation of Dostoyesky’s novella of the same name. If you’re not familiar with it, think William Wilson by Edgar Allan Poe.
The cinematography and production design gives the film a weird dystopian look. The claustrophobic and color-coded world of Simon takes place in an industrial landscape of the 60’s. But at the same time the perpetually dimly lit scenes also tell you that this whole thing might as well be someone’s nightmare.
Jessie Eisenberg – the go to nebbish character actor of Hollywood next to Micheal Cera – aces a niche role as Simon James. In fairness, he also plays a convincing opposite of his character and for some reason they have a good chemistry with each other.
The Double’s imagery is interesting, but its forgettable characters are stuck in a one narrative, which turns Simon into a running joke to justify its running time. He can’t get the girl and remains invisible at his job. Worse, his doppelganger is taking over his life and proves to be way better at it.
He never catches a break then the film takes a literal turn of events in an attempt to show the audience that it has an actual plot. Granted the doppelganger conceit is in the source material. But instead of following through, the script slaps Fight Club’s ending over Dostoyevsky’s work with convoluted results.
The Double looks interesting enough to make me curious about Richard Ayoade’s next work. But this film looks disjointed and ultimately empty. It’s more focused on referencing its influences (see Brazil, Eraserhead, and The Trial) rather than exploring its own themes.
My Rating: 6.5/10