The Double Review

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In music they always talk of that difficult second album: to emulate what has been achieved in the past in a way which is similar enough to appease the established fan-base, yet inclined to offer something new and different to avoid the artist being branded a one-trick pony. Well the same also applies to film-making, and following on from Richard Ayoade’s brilliant Submarine comes The Double, which fortunately is equally as creative and stylistic, marking a strong sophomore feature for the talented director.

Based on a Dostoevsky novel, Jesse Eisenberg plays Simon, a social introvert living a monotonous, mundane lifestyle, working tirelessly and getting no recognition for his efforts. His bad luck extends to his love life too, as he fails in his attempts to win the heart of his colleague Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). His confidence soon takes another knock too, when his doppelgänger James (Eisenberg also) comes into his life and manages to be the polar opposite: a charming man triumphing in every area Simon so often fails.

There’s a distinctive, striking aesthetic to this piece, which is just as concerned with its style as its substance. The film is all so well choreographed too, with every character moving like clockwork, adding a gracefulness to proceedings and enhancing the surrealistic tone. However to counteract the more fantastical aspects of the narrative, Ayoade plays heavily on the mundanity of normal life, taking real-life characters, in very real, everyday jobs, and placing them in an almost alternate universe, allowing for the audience to relate to this tale in spite of the quirky surroundings. Eisenberg shines in the two lead roles, capturing the very subtle idiosyncrasies of both Simon and James, and it’s a real credit to him that we can always tell exactly who he is portraying, despite the fact they are identical to one another. The role of Simon in particular suits him wonderfully, as with a timid frame, he works better as an underdog of sorts – similar to Woody Allen in that regard – and when on the back foot he comes into his element, which may explain why his charismatic role in Now You See Me fell flat somewhat.

Meanwhile there are a handful of fun cameos to indulge in – even if they are a little unnecessary at times, which takes us out of the story. This is a shame, because when immersed in this tale, and this surrealistic world and warped imagination of our resident filmmaker, it’s certainly a place we’d happily go back to.

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About Stefan Pape

Stefan Pape is a film critic and interviewer who spends most of his time in dark rooms, sipping on filter coffee and becoming perilously embroiled in the lives of others. He adores the work of Billy Wilder and Woody Allen, and won’t have a bad word said against Paul Giamatti.

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