Published Jun 12, 2014The Double is a deliberate, decidedly dark comedy that is designed to both disorient and delight the viewer at all times. British comedian turned writer and director Richard Ayoade follows up his critically acclaimed debut feature, Submarine, with an absurdist retelling of the Fyodor Dostoyevsky novella of the same name. In doing so, he not only reaffirms the promise that most saw in him already, but builds on it as well, making him a bona fide talent to watch for.
Jesse Eisenberg is Simon James, a hapless, lower-level employee at a nondescript government processing plant of sorts. He is a shy, reserved and generally unremarkable fellow who struggles with every mundane element of his dreary existence. It almost seems as though the universe has forgotten he is even there. Eisenberg also plays James Simon, who essentially looks identical to Simon James, but is his opposite in every way. He is confident and successful in both career and in romance, including Simon's object of obsession, Eisenberg's real life girlfriend, Mia Wasikowska. More importantly though, James Simon may or may not actually exist; he may just be the physical manifestation of Simon James' deteriorating and tormented mind, come to save Simon from himself and get him everything he thinks he wants by doing and saying the things that Simon doesn't think himself capable of saying or doing. As demanding as this is on Eisenberg, he tackles the task with seeming ease and in doing so, gives his most accomplished performance since The Social Network.
As much of a mind fuck as this is for Simon, it is an even bigger one for those watching him go through it. Watching The Double is at times as dizzying as actually seeing double — Ayoade is constantly playing with his audience, either with visual trickery, starkly contrasted colour schemes or bewildering soundscapes. The results are often completely unexpected and almost always hysterical. The trick, though, is to set aside any confusion you might be experiencing and to just allow yourself to be played with freely.