#REVIEW: “THE DOUBLE”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
I have seen Richard Ayoade’s The Double twice now – once during TIFF last September, and now this week nine months later. And while it is technically outstanding, I still have no idea what the hell he is trying to say.
Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg) is a bit of a Loser. He is outspoken and ignored at his job, his Mother barely recognizes him, and he can barely talk to his crush, Copy Girl Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). He lives across the street from her, and spends his nights spying on her with his telescope. His pathetic existence is shaken up with the arrival of James Simon (Eisenberg), who is his polar opposite. While Simon finds this curious at first, he grows increasingly worried and jealous as James begins to steal everything from him, including his own identity.
Much like Simon, it seems like Ayoade’s goal is to alienate the Audience watching The Double. While the Film comes together in the end, the majority feels like a nonsensical series of disjointed ideas, events, chaos and noise. He permeates the Film with obnoxious noises turned up to near obscene levels, whether they are music, footsteps, even blenders. Simon is being toyed with, and slowly descending into madness – and Ayoade does his very best to ensure the Audience feels that very same feeling. He puts Eisenberg and the Audience through hell, and not everyone will feel his sense of delight.
It is a curious follow-up to the off-beat Coming-of-Age Indie Submarine, but it is much more expertly crafted. The Film has a genuinely dark and industrial look, not unlike Terry Gilliam’s dystopic nightmare Brazil (which not so coincidentally features a pathetic, outspoken office drone going crazy). Outside of a handful of dimly-lit restaurant scenes and a recurring space-themed TV Show featuring Paddy Considine, there is no real light or brightness to speak of in the Movie. The Double is one of very few Films where the theme, look and content are all fluid, resulting in every element being just as bleak as the next.
Eisenberg has never been able to match his breakthrough performance in The Social Network, but he comes incredibly close here. He plays Simon and James totally different and indistinguishable from each other, even when they are both on-screen at the same time. They are two sides of the same coin, and it is downright hilarious in some instances to see just how different he can make the Characters. The Double may be increasingly bleak and unusual, but Eisenberg’s performance is genuine and intense. But as the Film spends so much time focused on his Characters, it leaves very little for the great supporting cast to do. Wallace Shawn gets a few laughs as Simon/James’ Boss, as do Noah Taylor, James Fox and Cathy Moriarty in increasingly smaller roles. I still find Wasikowska’s performance to be undercut and criminally-underused the second time through. She is great when she is on-screen, but she has way too little to do outside of being an unattainable object of affection.
The Double is dark and often morbid, but it has a number of hilarious moments sprinkled throughout. Casual Audiences may be put-off by the tone and general dystopic look of the Film, but it is an interesting (albeit confusing) experience for those who do sit through the film in its entirety. If you are looking for something off kilter and positively unique, then look no further.
D Films release THE DOUBLE in Toronto and Montreal, now in select theatres.