Eisenberg Goes ‘Double’

Perhaps best known for his role as Maurice Moss in the highly popular “The IT Crowd,” British comedian Richard Ayoade delighted audiences with his directorial debut “Submarine,” which was highly acclaimed and warmly received.

Ayoade’s second feature film, “The Double,” is a far cry from his debut sweet coming-of-age movie.

Based on the 1846 novella written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “The Double” focuses on the unremarkable and deeply unhappy Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg), whose existence and ambitions appear to go unnoticed by the rest of the world.

Simon is painfully shy and quiet, and works in a dreary data-input office filled with elderly men who have probably slaved their whole lives away in there — it’s clear Simon does not want to become like one of them.

Though he can’t ever seem to catch a break, Simon does attempt to speak up to his boss, Mr. Papadopoulous (Wallace Shawn), about methods of improving the way the company is run and writing up intricate analysis reports.

Simon’s reward is to be put in charge of mentoring a hateful, bratty intern (Yasmin Paige) who remarks constantly that Simon should take his own life already.

One day Mr. Papadopoulous introduces a new young worker, and to Simon’s shock and horror, James Simon (Jesse Eisenberg) is his exact doppelganger. Incredibly, no one else in the workplace appears to notice.

Though identical completely in physical features, James is brash, crude, witty, charming and bold — everything Simon wishes himself to be. The two bond and begin to work favors with one another, noting that they could never be caught as they have the same face.

However, the more outspoken James begins to take over Simon’s life, starting first with seducing and taking advantage of Hannah, and then taking credit for Simon’s work and reaping the praise from Mr. Papadopoulos.

“The Double” is a clear testament to many other filmmakers. There are influences of David Lynch, Hitchcock and Kubrick laced throughout.

Near the end of the film, it becomes clear the direction Ayoade is headed with the conclusion, but this does not make the journey any less enjoyable.

It’s hard to place the setting of the film in any specific time or location. The clunky and old-fashioned computers and printers in Simon’s office and the restaurants and bars the characters visit hearken to the 1950s and 1960s, but the characters themselves remain styled in a modern manner.

The unsettling plot is enhanced deeply by the film’s mechanical score, creepy use of lighting and strict moody color scheme — there is not a scene in the film that features natural daylight. The motif of suicide is also ever-present throughout the movie.

With his penchant for portraying awkward outsiders on-screen, Eisenberg was born to play the timid Simon. Surprisingly his turn as the outgoing James was also very well done and at times, terrifyingly aggressive.

Wasikowska’s Hannah is both delicate and bold, wrapped up in a phenomenon she can barely begin to comprehend.

Bleak, darkly humorous, and highly atmospheric, “The Double” is an experience not to be missed.

 

RECOMMENDED : A delightfully disturbing treat, “The Double” is a sign of great things to come in Ayoade’s directorial career.