Jesse Eisenberg in THE DOUBLE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Photo credit: Dean Rodgers
When I saw Denis Villeneuve‘s Enemy weeks ago, my first impression was that it was unsettling and the ending really earned its reputation (read: scary as fuck). It stars Jake Gyllenhaal in double roles and the film is set in modern setting where the first Jake plays a college professor (yes please!) and the other Jake is an aspiring actor with only cameo roles on his resume (who somewhat can afford a luxurious apartment). But then I saw Richard Ayoade‘s The Double the other week and it was definitely something else despite being almost in the same vein.
Here we have Jesse Eisenberg (and Ayoade’s Submarine cast in minor roles) in the lead role as a 9-to-5 employee in a very dull office environment. He’s hardworking, but he’s hardly social. Then three things happen: 1). An accident at his apartment, 2). He meets a photocopy girl (played by Mia Wasikowska), and 3). Someone who looks exactly like him start working at his office. Then it all starts spiraling upside down, left to right, and front to back. I must say Eisenberg really give a wonderful performance that sticks with me afterwards.
The film, written by Ayoade and Avi Korine (yes, the Korine sister), clearly try not to be so serious by giving the two lead characters interchanging names: Simon James and James Simon. Not only that, but also the fact that other people don’t see the similarity between the two. It’s so funny, but this aspect also gives the film unnerving feeling later on where James and Simon (ha!) start to know each other.
It’s made clear that the film is set in a not so distant future. But instead of being lazy and giving it a futuristic look, the production designer takes another turn and use retro setting for everything and keep it simple and dark. Other highlight is how the film uses the most out of its sound design. It’s impossible to ignore the sound editing and mixing in this film. It’s beautiful, precise, and haunting.
Ayoade has expressed that he was thinking about Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood For Love while making this. But to me it seems there’s a resemblance between this film with any of recent Wes Anderson’s film. Not only the quirky lead character, but also the fast talking dialogue (although Eisenberg has probably gotten used to it thanks to The Social Network). But don’t think it’s all rapid fast dialogue. Instead most of the times the film uses the emptiness with the sound mentioned earlier and it creates a jaunting space in the story.
The Double doesn’t go for the shock like Enemy does. It goes for the thrill and suspense and build it by having each act get more intense towards the end. The result is a very memorable take on Dostoyevsky’s novel The Double and it puts Ayoade’s name back on the radar and it really, really shows a promising talent that confirms Submarine is just a warm-up and there’s a lot more to be seen from Ayoade.
Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska in THE DOUBLE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Photo credit: Dean Rodgers