Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn
Genre: Drama/ Thriller/ Comedy
Simon James (Eisenberg) is an introverted and awkward office worker and all round loser who harbours feelings for his neighbour and co-worker Hannah (Wasikowska) but like everyone else in his life, she ignores him. The arrival of a new co-worker by the name of James Simon (also Eisenberg), who is physically identical but the polar opposite in terms of personality, makes Simon’s seemingly pathetic existence seem even more desperate and isolated until he almost feels like he does not exist at all.
So after his directorial debut Submarine,which was a beautifully made and emotionally involving film, here comes the inevitable ‘difficult second album’ for Richard Ayoade. The Double most definitely has all the ambition and eye for detail of Submarine, and is most certainly a very admirable attempt at something very different. The Double boasts an intriguing plot, fantastically put together scenes, a stunningly effective sound design and some great performances, but in my view the overall film does not quite match up to the sum of its parts.
There are obvious nods to and inspiration from Gilliam and Lynch throughout. I know everyone has mentioned this, but they have to be pointed out. However, this is not a criticism as Ayoade does not simply copy and paste, but draws inspiration from two great film makers very effectively to create a style that suits the narrative for the film perfectly, which should only be complimented and not criticised. The industrial soundscape and Andrew Hewitt’s chamber music-like score provide an effective atmosphere that complement the beautifully crafted (and very Brazil-esque) set design and Ayoade’s superb camerawork. There is much to be admired stylistically about The Double and it is without a doubt entertainingly great fun from start to finish.
As the dual protagonist, Eisenberg is note perfect in a role that would be very easy to get wrong: As Simon he beautifully underplays his social awkwardness and general lack of comfort in his own skin. His deadpan style perfectly suited to the tone of the film, and Eisernerg demonstrates great comic timing, both verbally and physically. James is more the smug kind of character that Eisenberg usually plays, but he does do it very well and he is undoubtedly a charismatic screen presence as the more extroverted James. It is testament to Eisenberg that Simon is a character I did find myself genuinely caring about, something the script in isolation I feel would struggle to do.
The Double also boasts an amount of cameo’s that make a recent Wes Anderson film seem light on familiar names; Wallace Shawn, Tim Key, Chris O’Dowd, Chris Morris and every cast member of Submarine turn up (often blink and you’ll miss them cameos), and though these are great fun at times (especially Morris), they do in my view sum up the main problem of The Double that prevents it from being a truly great film: an abundance of style, but just not quite enough substance to boot. Like I said, these cameos are fun, but often seem like an intentional distraction from the fact the narrative actually offers little substance or emotional engagement.
Throughout the entire narrative it just feels there is something lacking, providing a film that is wonderfully entertaining from start to finish and often very funny, but does not have the emotional payoff it should have. Budget restraints may of course played a part, but the film’s climax seemed very rushed, and the entire finale feels like it could have gone on for longer as The Double is great fun while it lasts, but easily forgotten. Ayoade obviously has great talent as a visual filmmaker, but perhaps next time should focus on the script more first.
Demonstrating immaculate attention to detail with an effective use of sound and visuals; The Double is a film that boasts an abundance of style and is most certainly aesthetically pleasing in every way. It is also very funny, but often it feels the comedy attempts to hide a lack of actual substance and stop The Double from achieving its true potential.