Three years ago, I closed out TIFF 2010 with Richard Ayoade’s directorial debut SUBMARINE. While I thought the film had a flaw or two, it nevertheless stuck with me, and even took on added importance when I started watching The IT Crowd and realized that it was directed by Moss. So when I saw that Ayoade’s sophomore film was coming to TIFF 2013, I signed on.
Turned into a great decision, since THE DOUBLE brought me a great deal of joy.
THE DOUBLE is adapted from the Dostoyevsky novel of the same name. It stars Jesse Eisenberg as Simon James, an office drone who makes very little impression on those he comes in contact with. This includes a fetching neighbour and co-worker named Hannah played by Mia Wasikowska. However all of his problems become compounded, when his doppelgänger James Simon arrives. He begins working at the same company, catches Hannah’s attention, and is everything Simon wishes he was. The ego and the id come face to face as Simon tries to get control of his life…in the face of someone living it better.
THE DOUBLE will remind viewers of a lot of films that have come before it, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It includes two wonderful performances by Jesse Eisenberg, both of which are unique without cheating. It offsets a lot of genuine moments of desire, frustration, and romance with flourishes of Kaufman-esque absurdity. Simon’s struggle epitomizes the frustrations many are willing to put up with, often being complacent in lieu of rocking the boat. It’s set in a world that’s very mechanical – a world which Ayoade described as a 1950′s version of our present.
The way Eisenberg is able to play so well off himself is amazing to watch. Simon and James work so well together, peppering each moment of disbelief with a great deal of cockiness. Each of them are wonderful to watch work with Hannah, since one pines for her and the other smooth-talks her. Ayoade gives these characters such a delightful stage to play on, and surrounds them with a whole team of witty supporting players.
When the film eventually drops, it won’t be for everybody. Some just may not buy into its kookiness, others may feel like they’ve seen the film before. Neither one are wrong exactly, but for others like me, the film will hit a truly delightful note.