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The Double | Film Review

The Double is Richard Ayoade’s follow up to Submarine, but this is a much darker ride

Source: The Double Movie Poster

Sat in an independent cinema in Southampton (as the local multiplex was oddly not screening it) on a Tuesday afternoon, you wouldn’t be surprised to find the audience for Richard Ayoade’s follow up to the excellent Submarine, was just six youngish men sat alone dotted around the 200 seater theatre. But after viewing The Double this is maybe the exact audience the film deserves.

Richard Ayoade’s last picture Submarine was hailed as a success, the quirky rom-com was a low budget affair, but had enough style and originality to make enough waves for Ayoade to get the go ahead to make another movie. This time he has a bigger budget and a bigger cast with a few well-known Hollywood stars.

The Double is a very strange movie indeed. Based on Fyodor Dostoevsky novel, the movie follows the life of Simon (Jesse Eisenberg) who is one of life’s losers. He is unappreciated and by almost everyone in his life, from his boss to his own mother and even the office security guard fails to remember who is every time he turns up for work. His only highlight at his unglamorous Government job is that he gets to visit the Hannah (Mia Wasikowska) every day for a photocopy. She conveniently also lives opposite his apartment building where he can fantasise whilst watching her from his room and doing the normal everyday precedence of going through her trash! Then one day a new co-worker appears James (Jesse Eisenberg) who looks, sounds and dresses exactly as Simon although he is brave, charming and above all things a hit with the ladies and his boss. Worst of all though is when even Hannah falls for James and Simon realises he has to fight back.

This is a premise that seems rather familiar without being able to put a finger on where exactly its been done before. Simons’s character is very much in the same vein as Sam Lowly (Jonathan Pryce) in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and the movie has a very similar feel and look to a lot of Gilliam’s work. The entire palette of the film is in brown and white, all the colours are turned down. It feels like we are in an American state but in cold-war Eastern Europe. All the characters are mean and disgruntled, any machine has to be yanked and twisted in order to make it work. There is little luxury and even the drinks come in a sickly blue liquid. It’s an unfriendly world Ayoade has created for the screen and apart from the inter-cutting of a Simon’s favourite sci-fi show starring Paddy Considine, whose role as a retro space-cop, are some of the films better moments. It’s the quirky cameos by many of Submarines cast. as well as Ayoade’s showbiz friends that keeps the film interesting. As sadly, the films narrative and unlikable characters allows the film to drag. There are the odd glimpses of humour, but nothing that brings more than a smile and even the climax, that should be fascinating and inspired just feels like a relief that its all tedium has ended.

Ayoade is obviously a big fan of Terry Gilliam and Wes Anderson and has tried to create a film set in his own little world where every set and prop has been timelessly looked into to. But with all of the time spent to make the film seem so unique there seems to have been less time making the film likable. Submarine succeeded by having a heart and likable but unusual characters. The Double just has unusual characters that you never want to hear from again. Eisenberg works very well as the Simon, but playing an awkward loser isn’t really a posh for his talents as its what he plays time and time again. Wasikowska delivers a very sweet performance, that is one of the standout parts of the film, but in the UK at least everyone will take most from the number of cameos from UK comedy stars that frequent the screen. Especially Tim Key as the staff member at Simon’s mothers nursing home.

A disappointing follow up to Submarine. Do we need another Terry Gilliam? This is a bit too heavy on style over substance and will maybe fit in with the more art house fan boys.

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