The Double (2014)


Two Mark Zuckerbergs? *Universe implodes

Simon (Jesse Eisenberg) lives a pretty dull, yet strange life. Almost every day, he takes the train to work, sees a girl that he has a crush on (Mia Wasikowska), can’t get into because his card doesn’t work, is slacking on his work, visits his mom on occasion as the senior citizen’s home, and rarely ever talks to anyone. He also spends most of his nights spying on that girl he has a crush on, from across apartment-complexes. Pretty strange, right? Well, life for Simon gets a bit stranger once a cool, swift, suave and over-achieving guy named James comes into the workplace and practically wins everybody over. But what’s so weird about James isn’t the fact that he has practically everybody falling head-over-heals for him as soon as he walks through the door, it’s that he looks exactly like Simon. And I don’t mean that he has a similar-looking bone-structure, I mean that he practically is Simon! Well, except for the fact that they are total, polar-opposites in terms of personality and how they handle themselves at work. James realizes the physical-similarity, and therefore, takes advantage of it by having Simon do all of his work for him, and even steal that girl away from him. Eventually though, Simon gets mad as hell, and decides that he’s not going to take it anymore, but since he’s such a mope, he doesn’t know how to.

Have no clue why doppelgangers have become such a hot ticket this year (Enemy), but hey, I’m not complaining. Though it would be easy to do these types of stories where a look-alike comes into one’s life and practically ruins it for them, in the most conventional way, somehow, both the aforementioned Enemy and the Double seem to get away from that convention. Well, that’s not to say that they don’t follow the same type of pattern, but they’re both stories that usual a simple story, and spin it as many times as they can.

I'm going to assume it's all for an "art project".
I’m going to assume it’s all for an “art project”.

However, that’s probably where the similarities have to end, because the Double and Enemy are two different films in their own rights; the latter was more like a David Lynch mind-fuck, whereas the former, believe it or not, is a lot more light and fun on its feet.

At its core, though, it’s creepy and I think that’s the idea that writer/director Richard Ayoada taps into the most and does well with. We never quite know where this story is going to go, and whether or not James is just a figment of Simon’s weird, imaginary mind, however, that to us, doesn’t really matter. Once this whole mystery shows up, the movie never really goes into the discussion or even the idea of that. Instead, Ayoada keeps his mind on the characters, the story, and just how this whole problem affects Simon’s life.

It’s pretty intriguing to see a psychological-thriller done in this sort of way, but Ayoada does a fine job balancing both acts out, even if it’s clear that he cares more for the “story”, and less of the “mystery”. Still though, it works because Ayoada does a fine job at setting-up this story, its characters, and why this doppleganger’s existence actually matters, especially to someone like Simon. The guy’s a bit of a weirdo – actually, scratch that, he’s a total weirdo – but he’s a sympathetic one that makes it easy for us, as the audience, to stick with him while he’s going through this crisis of his life and wonder just what the hell is really going on.

However, though that may be a mission of his, it’s not the most important; no, for Simon, the real mission of his life is to gain the love of his life, and this is where most of the movie’s comedy comes from. Though it is heartfelt, still, we get plenty of humor in the ways that Simon continuously tries to do the right things that would have the gal of his dreams, love him and want to be with him. But it’s less of that we’re laughing at Simon, and more that we’re left laughing at the way in which the world around him treats him. It’s a weird, dystopian-setting that isn’t always a normal place, but is interesting because to examine because it seems like it could, at one point, be a mixture between the 80’s and the 70’s, and then, the next second, seems like it could be the cold, dark, and deep future world we might possibly live in.

I don’t know. In all honesty, I’m probably going deeper into that than I should, but the fact lies: This movie is definitely a departure of sorts for Ayoade, especially after something as comedic and poignant as Submarine, but a very interesting one. He doesn’t lose his comedic-roots, or his attention to style, but he definitely does place an eerie-tone in this movie that can be felt underneath, while still not getting in the way of what really matters; which is the characters themselves. Most importantly, Simon, and, I guess, James.

Jesse Eisenberg has been a consistent actor for the longest time and is more than likely going to be getting a whole lot bigger in another year or so, but one thing that he’s definitely been accused of in the past is sort of getting pigeon-holed into playing the same characters, time and time again. And while that is most definitely true, you can’t fault him for that, because it’s something he’s great at doing. He’s fine at playing these sheepish, awkward, nervous-types that make him seem like the younger-version of Woody Allen, and while we’d like to see him do something different and more exciting, it’s an act that still works for him. So, basically, why fix what’s clearly not broken?

And yes, for the longest time, Simon seems like the quintessential character Jesse Eisenberg would play: He’s soft, weird, and hardly ever capable of handling a meaningful conversation that lasts longer than two minutes. However, once James shows up, we realize that there’s a little bit more to Eisenberg; which yes, means that he can be funny, and even, dare I say it, “cool”. Never thought that word would come out of my mouth when describing a character played by Jesse Eisenberg, but somehow, that happens here and it works.

James is, what you would call, a bit of a player. He’s sly, cool, has a way with the ladies that only a handful of people in every state can master, is a charmer, and knows how to use people to his advantage. It’s the type of role we’ve seen Eisenberg only hint at being able to play in the past, but here, in the Double, he gets to really go wild with and it works. James is a total dick, but he at least helps Simon out with his lady-troubles, so that sort of makes him sympathetic, right? Well, kind of. Yes. Maybe so. Oh, I don’t know!

Awkward first-dates. Yeah, don't know anything about that.
Awkward first dates. Yeah, don’t know anything about that.

What I do know is that Eisenberg is great in these dual-roles because he really does allow us to differentiate the two characters. There isn’t any neat, visual-tricks that Ayoada uses in order to create in allusion, but rather, allow Eisenberg to have us use our minds as to which character is speaking, whom is doing what to whom, why, and so on and so forth. It all works and it’s less of a show for Ayoada’s directorial-skills, as much as it is for Eisenberg to show the world that he’s got the goods to change things up with his acting-style.

While this may be definitely be his show, he isn’t the only one that does a fine job. But here’s what’s weird about the rest of the characters in this movie: They’re all pretty cartoonish. Which, yes, does make sense when you think of the world that Ayoada has created, but doesn’t really do much for any of these characters, or the actors playing their roles. Like, for instance, Wallace Shawn gets the role as Eisenberg’s boss and is amusing, but never really goes any deeper than “boss who constantly gets on employer’s case for not working to the best of his ability”. It has its moments and it’s funny, but after awhile, it did make me wish there were some more human characters in here to be found. You know, like Mia Wasikowska’s character was, except maybe less beautiful than here.

Consensus: Slightly off-kilter and eerie, the Double works as a showcasing for the type of talents Jesse Eisenberg is capable of having and using, as well as a nice creative-departure that shows promise for Richard Ayoada’s directorial-career.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

When you both rip suit-jackets off off the same rack, at the same JC Penny, it's a little hard to figure who is who,
When you both rip suit-jackets off the same rack, at the same JC Penney, it’s a little hard to figure who is who.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

13 comments

  1. Sounds like an interesting movie, I’ll have to check it out for sure. Solid write-up Dan!

  2. Nice review, Dan. I’ll agree that Eisenberg’s performance here was certainly impressive, and I did like a lot of the production design at hand here. And yet, I still found this one pretty off-putting, and definitely could never imagine myself being able to sit through it again. Hell, there were a number of occasions I actually felt like turning it off, which isn’t exactly high praise for a movie like this. Well executed in some regards, but not quite the whole package.

  3. Great review! I remember reading about this awhile back, and I’ve been looking forward to it ever since. I love Eisenberg and Wasikowska.

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