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Review: The Double

May. 9, 2014by: Chris Bumbray
100%

NOTE: This review originally ran as part of our TIFF 2013 coverage.

PLOT: Simon (Jesse Eisenberg) is a mid-level office drone who's horrified to discover that he has an exact doppelganger that's everything he's not- charming, sophisticated and confident. Soon James, the double, begins taking over Simon's life.

REVIEW: I guess doppelgangers are hot this year. THE DOUBLE is the second movie I've seen at this year's TIFF that focuses on a guy discovering a heretofore unknown duplicate of himself, the other being ENEMY. Like that film, the protagonist is the quiet, shy double, while the more aggressive, charismatic double is the marginal antagonist.

That obvious- major- similarity aside, Richard Ayoade's THE DOUBLE is stunningly different from Denis Villeneuve's ENEMY. While that was a Lynchian mind-f*ck of the highest order, Ayoade's THE DOUBLE is a far more accessible film.. Despite the origins as a story by Fydor Dostoyevsky, THE DOUBLE is a more like Terry Gilliam's BRAZIL, with a heavy dose of Kafka thrown in, and a dab of George Orwell for good measure.

THE DOUBLE is set in a semi-dystopian, retro-futuristic world. Eisenberg's Simon works for a Big Brother-esque figure called The Colonel (James Fox) at a monolithic company that seemingly does nothing constructive, but runs everything. It's a hopelessly bland existence, where's he's bossed around by an idiotic supervisor (played by Wallace Shawn), and is such a faceless cog at his company that no one can seem to remember him, to the point that security has to check his id every morning. The only upside to his existence seems to be watching a cheesy BLAKE'S 7-style TV show (starring Paddy Considine, the show within the movie is such cheesy fun I hope there's more footage lying around for the DVD/Blu-ray). That, and his unrequited love of his corporation's copy girl, played by a ravishing Mia Wasikowska.

Simon is the type of guy that wouldn't say boo to a goose, and it's not a stretch for Eisenberg, who's made a career out of these types of roles. However, his part as James is an interesting departure, with Eisenberg forced to play him as outgoing and possibly sinister, which is something I've never seen him do before. Like Gyllenhaal in ENEMY the film is less reliant on special effects to differentiate the characters than the performance. Going even further than ENEMY, THE DOUBLE has both characters dressed identically (in a cheap off-the-rack suit that looks like it's out of JCPenny), although from the wildly different ways Eisenberg inhabits the characters it's always obvious exactly which double you're watching.

It's funny that Eisenberg's good protagonist always feels more robotic and less human than his double, who shirks responsibility, but at least seems passionate. Other than the bad double, the only other person in the film that acts recognizably human is Wasikowska as Eisenberg's dream girl, who exudes a warmth that feels alien in this cold, impersonal world, but acts in such a schizophrenic way, it practically seems like she has a double herself (I'm certain THE DOUBLE is a film that can- and will- be endlessly deconstructed).

While I'm probably not as high on THE DOUBLE as I was on Ayoade's last film, SUBMARINE, THE DOUBLE is another good one, albeit radically different from what you might expect given his track record. I'd still say it's essentially a comedy, although most of the laughs come from the banality of Eisenberg's world and existence. Past that, there's also something interesting being said about the loss of individuality, through the nightmare scenario of watching your double slowly phase you out of your own life, as anything you can do, the double does better. While it's not quite BRAZIL, THE DOUBLE feels like Ayoade- sooner rather than later- just may have what it takes to create something on that level. THE DOUBLE is an interesting step in a whole new direction for him, and I'm excited to see where he takes us next.

Source: JoBlo.com

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8:39AM on 05/09/2014
Wait, THE Richard Ayoade of The IT Crowd? I might watch this movie after all.
Wait, THE Richard Ayoade of The IT Crowd? I might watch this movie after all.
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3:37AM on 09/16/2013
So, this is a comedy? I always find it weird what Richard directs. I've only ever known him from The IT Crowd. Well, that and The Watch, but I generally like to forget that movie.
So, this is a comedy? I always find it weird what Richard directs. I've only ever known him from The IT Crowd. Well, that and The Watch, but I generally like to forget that movie.
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10:27AM on 09/15/2013

Well it's

Actually the 3rd movie this year to feature doppelganger. The 3rd one being PLUS ONE.
Actually the 3rd movie this year to feature doppelganger. The 3rd one being PLUS ONE.
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1:05PM on 09/15/2013
Technically they're not doppelgangers in Plus One because it's a time travel flick, or alternate universe can't remember which.
Technically they're not doppelgangers in Plus One because it's a time travel flick, or alternate universe can't remember which.
3:28AM on 05/09/2014
The Face of Love, Muppets Most Wanted.
The Face of Love, Muppets Most Wanted.
6:30AM on 09/15/2013
This flick sounds like something my.wife.& I will enjoy watching. Can't wait to check it out now that I've heard of it. Good review. Thanks.
This flick sounds like something my.wife.& I will enjoy watching. Can't wait to check it out now that I've heard of it. Good review. Thanks.
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