The Double is a new black comedy directed by Richard Ayoade starring Jessie Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, James Fox and Noah Taylor. Eisenberg plays a meek, downtrodden office worker called Simon James who is ridiculed by his fellow workers including Hannah (Wasikowska’s character) who operates the colossal photocopier in the office. To make matters worse, Simon’s sad life is invaded by his doppelgänger (also played by Eisenberg) who appears randomly one day calling himself James Simon. James Simon is the exact opposite of Simon James as he is confident, charming and assertive, he starts dating Hannah, is popular with the office boss and is very successful while Simon James’ life continues to go down the crapper. Simon slowly starts to lose his sanity due to his depressing existence and the mysterious appearance of his double who excels while he fails.
Ayaode based the story on the novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and sets the film in a shadowy and surreal office environment that looks like a set from a Terry Gilliam movie. There are similarities to Brazil here and Simon James is just as hapless as Jonathan Pryce’s character Sam Lowry in Gilliam’s film. Both films also seem to be poking fun at the ridiculous levels of bureaucracy that can permeate an office or industrial environment. There are also elements of Kafka in the film as Simon becomes trapped in his private hell and the walls start closing in.
The trailer is very entertaining and it surprisingly eschews sound effects and dialogue in favor of a nice blues song. The film also has nice, gloomy cinematography which adds some atmosphere and makes the office environment look visually arresting. Simon’s co-workers all grin at him when he passes by in the trailer which alienates him further, it seems like everyone else is having a good time while he is miserable. The stark differences between Simon and his doppelgänger are briefly shown too and there is a nice shot of the two standing next to each other towards the end of the trailer.
It appears the director is keen to explore the plight of a hapless guy who is invisible to everyone and has no impact on the world. Such a dire situation is depressing but Ayaode clearly tries to find some cruel humour in the situation. Eisenberg is well cast here and he is able to play a character like Simon fairly well, it will be interesting to see how he handles the character of James the doppelgänger too, the actor has it in him to play assertive, confident characters and it will be nice to see how he tackles the role here. It’s also nice to see actors like Wallace Shawn and James Fox as they don’t appear in movies that often these days.
The Double has an interesting premise and the main idea has been used well in other films like The Man Who Haunted Himself with Roger Moore for example. Ayaode’s film is mysterious and the trailer does a good job at making the viewer wonder how the story will end for poor Simon James.
The film premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on September 7th, hopefully it will make an appearance at cinemas sometime in the future.
Check out the trailer and share your thoughts.