The Double – Review by Frances Winston
Directed by: Richard Ayoade
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Noah Taylor, Yasmin Paige, James Fox
In cinemas April 4th at selected cinemas including the IFI and the Lighthouse.
This is based on Dostoyevsky’s 1846 novella The Double which tells the tale of what happens when a government clerk meets his doppelganger. Adapted here by director Ayoade and Avi Korine they have set it in a timeless, nameless place that gives a sense of surrealism to proceedings that balances nicely against some subtle but effective performances.
Eisenberg plays Simon James a shy, downtrodden Data Inputter in a company run by someone called The Colonel (Fox). Almost completely invisible to everyone around him he trudges through his mundane life with his only moments of joy being those he spends observing co-worker Hannah (Wasikowska) from afar. However when his doppelganger James Simon begins working for the company Simon realises that while he may look like him his outgoing personality is the polar opposite of his own and enlists his help to get closer to Hannah. While this seems to be a good idea at first it takes a turn for the worst when it turns out that everybody adores the loud, brash James, including Hannah. He leaves an indelible impression on anyone he encounters and as his popularity grows Simon fades further and further into the background until he becomes almost a ghost in his own life.
This has elements of noir, fantasy and absurdism throughout. Its look is reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis or Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. Everything is familiar but unfamiliar to the extent that when an immediately recognisable reference is made it seems strangely out of place in this whimsical world. This setting works well with the story which is simple but effective. Eisenberg does a great job creating two very different characters in Simon and James. You really want to see Simon triumph and hope that James gets his come-uppance and there is a touch of Jekyll and Hyde about his performance. He has a great chemistry with Wasikowska in both roles and all of the cast embrace the surrealness of the movie’s world and run with it.
The soundtrack is just as whimsical as the setting and works beautifully and on the whole the sound editing here is superb. The cinematography is also excellent and helps engage the viewer in this unfamiliar world. There are plenty of star cameos. Paddy Considine has a hilarious role as the star of a sci-fi TV show beloved by Simon and Ayoade’s IT Crowd co-star Chris O’Dowd has a great turn as a doctor to name just two.
This is blackly comical, touching and engaging. It may not be high octane but it is well paced and beautifully directed. It won’t be to everyone’s taste due to the more surreal elements at play but if you stick with this it will leave you with a definite case of the warm and fuzzies.
Categories: Best New Movies, Movie Review, Movies
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