Movie Review: The Double

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg as Simon James/James Simon, Mia Wasikowska as Hannah, Wallace Shawn as Mr. Papadopolous

Director: Richard Ayoade

Writer(s): Richard Ayoade, Avi Korine

What if you’re not as unique as you thought you were? Simon James is a mid level employee at a large company. He is a good and diligent worker who knows the ins and outs of the company’s economic sector (whatever that is is never revealed) very well. Like many indie film protagonists, Simon feels invisible and under-appreciated. He goes through his daily life mostly unnoticed. His supervisor at his employer of seven years can’t even remember his name. Enter James Simon. If you can’t guess from the film’s title and the fact that his name is a mirror image, he is Simon’s doppelganger. They are the same height, same build, have the same face (they are played by the same actor, after all), but their personality’s are polar opposites. James is lazy and manipulative, routinely badgering (and later blackmailing) Simon into doing his work. However, he is also assertive and outgoing, everything Simon wishes he was. After a brief period of friendship bordering on attachment, James sets out to steal Simon’s existence.

With its washed out colour pallet, heavy lighting contrasts, stiff camera work, and era confused technology, the movie comes across as a visual homage to the work of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. The sparse and borderline desolate settings help to sell the sense of despair and isolation that the main character feels. Eisenberg turns in a commendable performance as the film’s protagonist and his titular double. Wallace Shawn’s Mr. Papadopolous is also memorable and often humorous. The rest of the performances, however, are little more than background noise. The cinematic equivalent of Kenny G. Mia Wasikowska’s Hannah is particularly egregious. Her performance is wooden and forgettable. Of course, this seems to be her stock in trade. The writing also leaves much to be desired. The characters are incredibly one dimensional and the plot often times seems weird for the sake of being weird. It also seems that the writers weren’t quite sure of what kind of conclusion that they wanted the film to have. Over the course of the movie’s run time, it is fairly well established that Simon and James are in fact two different people. However, at some point in the final act, it seems that the writers decided on a lark to try and sell the idea that one is a figment of the others imagination. As if one of them may be suffering from some type of mental illness (possibly a dissociative identity disorder). It felt as if it were a hasty, forced addition. If the plot were as well thought out as the visuals, The Double may have been a good movie. Unfortunately, it collapses under the weight of the writers’ plot confusion.

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