The Double

May 26, 2014 at 10:33 pm | Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment
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Not to be confused with the 2011 Richard Gere film of the same name, this movie is a modern interpretation of Dostoyevsky’s “The Double” that was published in 1866. Richard Ayoade (director of the British indie film “Submarine” but best known for his roles in “The Watch” and “The IT Crowd”), strays from the Czarist Russia of the original story and directs this film with a keen eye for the aesthetics of Cold War Russia, cleverly pointing out that perhaps not so much had changed between those two eras. The film takes place in a vast office and generic apartment buildings, replete with concrete walls, dim lamps, wooden cubicles and 60s era technology. The movie is beautifully shot and visually arresting from start to finish. In it, Jesse Eisenberg plays Simon James, a meek and invisible everyman toiling away in the corporate machine.  He is unappreciated and unseen. However, his life is thrown into turmoil when James Simon joins the company. James, also played by Eisenberg, is his physical identical but his emotional opposite. As James begins to take over his life, Simon slowly comes undone. Dostoyevsky’s story ends darkly with his main character’s insanity and complete destruction. Ayoade plays his final scenes more softly and somewhat more ambiguously. Eisenberg does a terrific job of managing to play two different characters in the same body. Sometimes I knew which one he was just by the way he was walking. Where the movie was weakest was in its plot, which unfolded very slowly and with often dry dialogue.  At a lean 93 minutes, it’s hard to accuse the film of being overlong but it honestly felt much longer. In addition, a metaphor about the costs of treating people like cogs made sense in Russia but doesn’t resonate with 21st Century Americans who are obsessed with individuality. It’s hard to find anything to related to in Simon. Sharper, more wry writing might have really elevated this film to something special.  As it was, this was a visually arresting but somewhat empty film.

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