Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
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. 
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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 for me.

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.
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