A comedy centered on a man who is driven insane by the appearance of his doppleganger.
The Double is a strange little film from Richard Ayoade, best known for his appearances as Moss on ‘The IT Crowd’ and for ‘Submarine’, his directing debut. For his second feature, he takes a Dostoevsky novella, and creates a dystopian nightmare – a less outlandish ‘Brazil’ if you will. The film is focused on Jesse Eisenberg’s Simon James, a downtrodden office worker who spends his days working in a mindless job and getting no praise, whilst his nights are spent either in his dingy bedsit or being abused by his mother at her nursing home. The initial set up is interesting enough, but the film becomes infinitely better when Simon’s ‘double’ arrives, a man called James Simon, who is essentially a more confident and outgoing version of Simon himself.
Eisenberg is a perfect choice to play both versions of himself, his snappy demeanour fits perfectly with the brash newcomer, whilst he is equally as good playing the miserable original. The film has been described as a black comedy, which is probably a fair description. There’s lots of references to suicide, and the dingy world these characters operate in cannot possibly lead to happy lifestyles, but Ayoade skilfully makes humour out of these moments, particularly in piling the pain on ‘Simon’ without making it seem clichéd. The film’s a great study of identity, and the story becomes more deliciously warped once ‘James’ arrives. Initially, the doppelgangers work together, but it becomes more sinister when ‘James’ starts trying to take over his life.
Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn and Noah Taylor are the most prominent members of the supporting cast, and all fit into this world seamlessly. I also particularly liked the little segments with a terrible sci-fi show (starring Paddy Considine no less) on the TV, and the little cameos from some of Ayoade’s previous collaborators. The film certainly won’t be for everyone – at the cinema I saw it, there were more walkouts than I’ve probably seen since ‘The Tree of Life’ (that may have had more to do with Orange Wednesday and a section of the audience not checking what the film was actually about before coming along), but for me, this was a darkly comic treat and a very enjoyable watch.
Directed By: Richard Ayoade
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins