Film Rec: “The Double” (2013)

The Double

The Double is a pitch-black comedy written and directed by Richard Ayoade, whom you might remember as Moss from The IT Crowd. The film stars Jessie Eisenberg in a dual role as a timid office drone and his exact physical doppelganger who has all the charisma and daring he lacks. While the presentation is delightfully surreal and often campy, the film packs some pretty heavy themes of isolation, paranoia and depression that give it a powerful dramatic core.

The story is based on the Dostoevsky novel of the same name, which I have not read, so I can’t say how closely it sticks to the original. However, it’s very clear that the film transports the plot into a classic dystopian setting that bears a close resemblance to works like The Trial, 1984, and Brazil. The influence of the latter is most apparent, so if you enjoyed Terry Gilliam’s darkly comic masterpiece, you should check this one out as well.

Three Reasons to Watch:

  • The Central Performances: Jessie Eisenberg is in perfect form playing the two types of characters he does best: a bumbling wimp and a cocky asshole. In spite of both characters looking, dressing and sounding identical, it’s always easy to identify who is who just by Eisenberg’s performance. Mia Wasikowska is also strong as the object of their affections, who manages to avoid the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope and feels like a fully fleshed out person.
  • Dystopian Fun: Ayoade is clearly working with a shoestring budget, but he manages to conjure up a very solid dystopian setting that is often just as funny as it is oppressive. The movie hits all the requisite nails on the head: dark atmosphere, byzantine bureaucracy, crude technology run amok, etc. One unique facet is the way it tends to contrast the shadowy cinematography with splashes of garish color, similar to the way the story uses humor to counterpoint the dark subject matter.
  • Surreal Ambiance: The premise is already treading heavily into magical realism territory, so it makes perfect sense for some things to not make any sense. Many scenes play out like a dream, though more often like a nightmare. If you like head-trip kinds of tales, this movie is definitely something to check out.

Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You About:

  • The Darkness of the Comedy: I’ve called the film a dark comedy a few times, but it’s really not a laugh-out-loud cavalcade of gags. The humor that’s there is mostly reliant in cringe comedy and the outlandishness of the setting. If you’re just in the mood to unwind with a few laughs, it might not be the best time to watch this one.

Watch the trailer here.

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