REVIEW: The Double

25 08 2014

The DoubleIt’s always interesting to see how two different filmmakers approach the same text and wind up with completely different interpretations.  Richard Ayode directly derives his film “The Double” from a novella of the same name by Fyodor Dostoyesvsky, while Darren Aronofsky drew heavily from it to create his Oscar-winning 2010 masterpiece “Black Swan.”

These films are not cinematic siblings, so to speak, but they are blood relatives of sorts and provide a fertile ground for analysis in tandem.  The same blood runs through their veins, but they manifest its influence in divergent fashions.  At the very least, anyone who has seen “Black Swan” will come away from watching “The Double” with an appreciation for the many choices facing the artists tasked with adapting a text.  (And I make the assumption that the majority of people interested in the latter are the kind of moviegoers who made a point to see the former.)

Aronofsky’s take on the doppelganger tale results in a horror film replete with corporal anxieties, while Ayoade finds just about the opposite in the Russian yarn.  His film is a dark comedy that often times veers into the absurd.  Its bizarre flavor regarding the humor regarding the humdrum mechanisms of the workplace  is about as far from the werewolf-swan movie as one can get.

And yet, there’s still the same underlying fear of being replaced by a better version of yourself that resonates in “The Double.”  It’s somewhat clouded by the fog of Ayoade’s peculiar funnybone, but it’s nonetheless there.  Jesse Eisenberg, essentially playing the same stammering character that won him an Oscar nomination for “The Social Network,” is an inspired choice to convey this paranoia to an audience.  He begins the film as the timid Simon James and then later appears as the supremely confident James Simon to steal all the thunder in the world of work and romance with the alluring Hannah (Mia Wasikowska).

It’s too bad we’re used to seeing Eisenberg play this character because “The Double” comes off as a bit old hat for the actor.  Either James or Simon could pop up in any of Eisenberg’s other movies as a doppelganger to induce a similar identity crisis in the native character.  He’s really doubled down, so to pun-nily speak, on this bumbling neurotic everyman.  Once or twice more, and he may very well veer into the perilous grounds of self-parody.  B-2stars



One response

26 08 2014

Good review. The story itself is a very dark and eerie one, but Ayoda injects it with enough humor that it works surprisingly well on all measures.

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