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United Kingdom 2014
Directed by
Richard Ayoade
93 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
3.5 stars

The Double

Synopsis: Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg) works a mundane office job for The Colonel and lusts after the copygirl, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). He’s put upon and cripplingly shy, not to mention creepy as he watches Hannah through a telescope in his apartment opposite hers. And then James Simon, an exact double of Simon turns up. He’s confident, popular, everything Simon isn’t. And he starts to take over Simon’s life.

Based on the Dostoyevsky short story of the same name, The Double is a film that makes me wish calling something solid but unexceptional didn’t sound like a put down. I mean that sincerely. This is a solid film but it’s not particularly exceptional. For one thing, although its surreal bureaucratic adventures scream of Gilliam's Brazil, it is without suggesting any real purpose. Here they are just a setting, rather than a counterpoint to a man’s fantastic dream-life and there’s no reason for them other than to create a small world for the story to inhabit, just something Ayoade presumably thought would be cool. And it is cool, but it’s not Brazil. For a second thing, Simon isn’t a particularly likeable guy. He’s socially-awkward, bumbling, and a stalker. I think we’re meant to get a certain blackly comic pleasure from this, but at least initially  it just serves to distance you from him. The net effect it that that the first third of The Double is a bit painful to sit through.

Thankfully, James is a lot more lively than Simon, and as the two bond and try to help each other, things gets nicely screwed up. And then as James pulls the rug out from under Simon and things get properly sinister, it continues to become more and more intriguing. Simon’s fumbling attempts at revenge and sabotage bring out nice character moments for both himself and Hannah, and as things shift into the genuinely entertaining final act, the pain of the first thirty minutes is more or less forgotten. It remains as off-kilter and surreal as always, but the plot catches up to the direction to the point where the elements make a bit more sense. The finale is quite clever, and sort of satisfying, albeit incorrigibly romantic. That Hannah discover's James's real depth and falls in love with him for it doesn’t feel quite right, more like movie logic at work.

There’s a lot to love in The Double, and plenty to find fault with. But I liked it all the same, flaws and all. Solid entertainment, but not particularly exceptional. That’s not a put down, that’s a qualified recommendation.




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