In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I don’t imagine it’s a movie that’s really gonna stay with me for reasons of story, or performance, or theme, or film making freshness.”
“I don’t want to be a boy held up by string.”
I’m a big, big fan of Richard Ayoade as an actor. Strangely, I think I like him because of his seemingly immensely limited range, not despite it. Dean Learner in Garth Meranghi’s Dark Place and Moss in The IT Crowd are totally unique characters with nothing in common, yet Ayoade plays them in pretty much the exact same awkward, stilted, detached way. There’s something so unique about his ticks and tricks, it works equally perfectly for these two wildly different characters.
For someone so unique in front of the camera, I was surprised by how anonymous he was behind it in his first big screen directing gig with Submarine. I liked Submarine, but as I think about it now, I remember nothing about the story or performances, and everything about his direction, which was straight out of the Wes Anderson Guide to Film Making. And it was that exact, detailed appropriation of someone else’s style that had me in no hurry to see his directorial follow up.
Despite generally good reviews for The Double, the majority of those reviews also compared it that another one of cinema’s most singular stylists. But it was a Sunday, I was hungover, and The Double was on Netflix. And it’s with that enthusiasm that I dive into this undoubtedly amazingly written review.
Simon (Jesse Eisenberg) is an anonymous worker drone in some sort of slightly dystopian present. He goes mainly unnoticed at work by his boss Mr Papadopoulos (Wallace Shawn) and colleague Harris (Noah Taylor), and stands out even less to his crush, co-worker and neighbour, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska).
One day, Simon arrives at work to discover that a new employee is his exact doppelganger, or double, if you will. James (also Eisenberg) is confident, outgoing and magnetically charismatic. Basically, as opposite to Simon in personality as he is identical in looks. The weird thing is, no one else seems to notice or acknowledge the resemblance, except Simon and James. Initially, James helps Simon to become more assertive, and even woo Hannah. But when James starts to get credit for Simon’s actions at work and his personal life, things get complicated, suspicious and bitter.
The great, singular, cinematic stylist I referred to a couple of paragraphs ago is Terry Gilliam. When The Double came out, Gilliam’s name was in almost every review I read or heard. Specifically, comparisons to Gilliam’s Brazil. They share similar settings, alternative realities where worker bees are faceless cogs, where individualism seems to be a thing of the past and where some sort of oppressive force is never seen, but always felt. And like his Wes Anderson impression in Submarine, Ayoade’s take on Gilliam schtick is just as spot on here.
Also just like Submarine, I like The Double, but I don’t imagine it’s a movie that’s really gonna stay with me for reasons of story, or performance, or theme, or film making freshness. It’s a movie that’s gonna stick with me, if at all, because it’ll make me think of Terry Gillam at his weird best.