We whine and we whine and we whine about why
there are no original movies and why do they keep doing
remakes and rehashes and sequels, and then we whine some
more. Well thank you writer / director Richard Ayoade
with your movie 'The Double', while still based on existing
property written by Dostoyevsky, is at least an original,
inventive and clever film. Thank you Richard
Ayoade. No… we probably didn't like your movie all that
much… but thank you anyway. Keep up the good work!
Jesse Eisenberg assumes the character of Simon James, a man so
insignificant that he almost doesn't even exist. Simon
has been working at the same place for seven years but yet his
fellow employees are almost oblivious to fact that he's there,
and the people who do recognize him, generally treat him like
three day old bread.
It's not much better for Simon off the clock either as his own
mother doesn't treat all that great, but at least he has an
escape, that being playing peeping tom on Hannah (Mia
Wasikowska), the pretty lady who lives across the street and
works at the same company making copies or something.
All Simon wants is the chance to let this woman know that he's
there, that he sees her, he understands her and even though
they've never really met… that he loves her.
Then one day at work the oddest thing happens. There's a
new employee they just hired named James Simon, and damn if he
doesn't look like Simon's identical twin. Typically,
nobody at the company seems to notice the resemblance, and
it's not helped that other than the fact they look alike,
James is different from Simon in every possible way.
Where Simon is passive, James is aggressive, where Simon is
forgettable, James is memorable, and where Simon accepts
whatever he is given, James takes whatever he wants.
Eventually Simon, not surprisingly, accepts
that James exists and they even become fast friends.
Simon looking to James for guidance and advice and James…
well… using Simon. It becomes pretty clear, pretty quick
to Simon that James is not looking out for his best interest,
especially when James offered to help Simon land his dream
girl across the street. And then James does some other
stuff which push meek and mild Simon over the edge, causing
Simon to realize, that if he wants his life back and the
pretty girl in his life, changes will have to made.
Just so you know, there are a lot of really good things going
on in 'The Double'. First we have a pretty phenomenal
performance put forth by Jesse Eisenberg. Yes, Mr.
Eisenberg tends to give us variations of the same character
from film to film, and he does pretty much the same thing
here, but there is a decided difference between the characters
of Simon and James, where they are clearly the same person,
but different sides of the same coin. And the path
created for James as someone we thought was kind of cool and
didn't mind hanging out with, to someone who probably needed
to be removed was well handled.
Another thing that also works well for 'The Double' is that it
has a definite sense of style to it. The film seems to
be saturated in what I can only call colorful darkness.
It is brightly drab. The film seems to be engulfed in a
form of exciting depression, which fits its two diametrically
opposed main characters just perfectly. I don't know if
Ayoade did this by design… well of course he did it by design,
he's a filmmaker… but the look of the film is, all at once,
someplace that's strangely inviting and also someplace you
kind of want to avoid. That's pretty unique.
The theme is probably where I, personally, had the most
difficulty with 'The Double'. At the end we understood
Simon's duality, projecting his desired self onto the
character of James to the point that his doppelganger became
an actual living being, and we understood the steps that Simon
had to take to free himself of this character that he has
created… if you buy into the fact that James is the physical
manifestation of Simon's subconscious… it's just getting to
these metaphysical, psychological elements of the film was
somewhat arduous at times. Most times. This is,
basically, the bulk of the film. And there were other
plot elements strewn in, mostly towards the conclusion, which
I almost think serve no other purpose except to confuse, and
this is a film, simply by its existence, that isn't the most
lucid and didn't need any confusing extra baggage.
The biggest thing that kept from completely enjoying 'The
Double' is that neither Simon nor James was someone I was
particularly interested in pulling for. James was a
welcome retreat from Simon, who was absolutely no fun to hang
around with, to the point we had to think that Hannah really
didn't need this creepy dude in her life. We were more
concerned for Hannah than we were for Simon. Then the
movie forced us to sour on James, but still couldn't find a
way to endear us to Simon. Somewhere along the
line, for the payoff to have meaning, I'm thinking that we had
to care for Simon's well-being, and that just didn't happen
Still, with the solid performances and stylish presentation,
not to mention the intellectual challenges that it provides,
'The Double' has a lot to offer and its very existence is
something that we appreciate. We just wished we enjoyed
the actual film as much as we enjoyed what it represents.