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Released in 2013
Directed by Richard Ayoade
TL;DR – I have a feeling not many people will agree with me on this, but I really did NOT enjoy this film. Jesse Eisenberg plays not one, but two bad versions of himself, the “surrealist nature” of the narrative just comes off as elitist schlock and the whole premise is extremely heavy handed, especially with it’s metaphors on addiction and mental illness. 4/10
Jesse Eisenberg plays Simon, a clerk in a government agency who finds his boring life takes a dramatic turn when a new co-worker who is both his exact physical double and his opposite – confident and charismatic, takes all the credit for his work and steals the woman he has been lusting after.
“The Double” is “Enemy,” but with a much less interesting narrative style. While “Enemy” made an effort to keep things “separate” so you were always involved in the puzzle solving process, “The Double” makes no qualms using it’s metaphor for “time” by having copies of the same characters on screen at the same time, nearly all the time.
While there is some attempt to keep the timelines on their own track, the appearance of the “Double” really throws everything off and makes for a rather infuriating viewing.
For example, the way the film introduces Hannah, Simon’s love interest makes it seem like he watches her from a distance in an almost creepy, stalker-ly manner. But even with the non-linear narrative it makes no sense at all how both of the characters actually know each other nearly the entire run time of the film.
The whole movie feels like a comic book for high schoolers, the pacing is lightning fast and the subject matter is all over the map. “James” is introduced pretty early on, and as previously stated he is a more confident version of Simon. This is ok in the confines of a movie, but right away I can’t take him seriously when he has Simon do chores for him or they decide to switch places for a night. It feels like “Freaky Friday” except the Lindsay Lohan version was better than this.
I just had so many questions that went completely unanswered, like what exactly what Simon’s job? The “government agency” is in this windowless building with ventilation shafts everywhere, people use these strange 1950’s sci-fi devices to do their “work” and file their “papers” and “reports” but I have no clue whats going on – and I actually want to know, because the presentation in “The Double” is actually really good. It feels very much like a George Orwell novel brought to life on a screen, with intimidating “higher-ups” calling the shots, a mysterious man known as “The Colonel” who’s running the whole show and making things better for the rest of us. Very, very little time is spent outside in this film – which lead me to think that maybe this was in the future and something was wrong with the atmosphere or environment but none of this is never explained and as I said, I really wanted to know.
The technical aspects of the film are absolutely on the mark. The sound design is excellent, the lighting is moody and appropriate and the cinematography is fine, not great, but more than serviceable for the feel of this movie and as I previously mentioned the set design is wonderful.
Just as you’re about to write the whole movie off as a “Fight Club” clone, we get a ridiculous scene where Simon and James get in to a fight at a Cemetary – and then you realize with 100% certainty that this is a “Fight Club” clone.
It seems like the majority of the movie takes place inside Simon’s head, but we are never given any hints to that information, not in clever ways that other films have done before.
Ultimately the movie is about mental illness, which is illustrated right away in the first 10 minutes of the film, where Simon witnesses someone in the building opposite the street of his commit suicide by jumping to his death. Of course, this is Simon.
There was a lot riding on Eisenberg in this film, he has to fill two lead roles and he can barely carry a film as one lead role. He really only works as Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network,” where he is just reciting facts and statistics. Mia Wasikowska is alright, and Wallace Shawn as Simon’s boss at the agency is awesome, as usual.
There’s just so many holes in so many places in this film that I just can not recommend it.
It looks and sounds really nice, and there’s a gem of dialogue here or there but the most I can hope for with “Double” is that no one will get it confused with “Enemy.”