This is Simon James, one half of The Double, the second film from director Richard Ayoade (after Submarine) playing the role is actor Jesse Eisenberg, as the story’s nervy, insecure side who’s panicking his way through life until……
This is James Simon, one half of The Double, the latest movie from Richard Ayoade (the IT crowd actor) starring Jesse Eisenberg as the story’s confident extrovert side who’s breezing his way through life until……
Imprisoned together in a nightmarish concept adapted from a Dostoevsky novella, a concept which Richard Ayoade and Avi Korine have transposed from St Petersburg to a strange hinterland, a never-world set not quite in the past, not quite in the future. A disturbing land of no-fixed geographical location, where actors have varying accents and at every turn the audience are thrown off balance like John Candy on a pedalo, leading us on an increasingly bizarre journey into the dark depths of the human psyche.
If this is all sounding a bit deep, well it is, but luckily for us Richard Ayoade is at the heart of this odd central idea, so its funny too, gleefully posing the question ‘What if you met your double, and what if no one gave a shit!?’ An absurdist comic set-up that Ayoade admits initially drew him to the project, a wonderfully surreal situation which he wrings for all the laughs and expected awkwardness that he can.
The humour is juxtaposed against the film’s inherent darkness, in lighting and tone, stunning dreamy visuals half-remembered from memories of recent slumber, show us stark suicides set against eternal night time, dark empty landscapes that echo extreme loneliness and yearning in a claustrophobic city populated with increasingly absurd characters. Characters which are made somehow believable and relatable through excellent performances from the actors involved, as this sort of dark Lynchian drama can only work if its carried (like a squealing pig dressed as a baby) on the believability of its cast. Mia Wasikowska is the object of Simon James’ affections, his only means of escape from this foggy forsaken fantasy but its James Simon’s confidence that draws her attention away from her dismal depressing day job, guiding the film’s central drama towards its fateful conclusion.
Nothing will cement actor’s credentials quite like playing two different roles in the same film. A situation that will have critics screaming:
‘Bloody hell, look he’s doing both of’em, and they’re actually different, isn’t he good! Well done!’
Before barging their way through to present Mia and Jesse with their crowns as the new indie King and Queen (especially after Stoker) toppling Gosling and Elizabeth Olsen from their thrones and into a muddy pit below.
As things slowly descend out of control, with the confident James Simon starting to take advantage of his introvert twin, the plot spirals becoming more and more bizarre until they become downright farcical, with an OTT fight scene at a funeral, dialogue that feels like its been made up on the spot and a complicated ending that sidesteps any sort of narrative satisfaction, a move that could easily have unconvinced audiences switching off completely but there’s enough jokes and comical cameos from the likes of Chris O’Dowd, Chris Morris and Paddy Considine to keep you going, just.
Despite all the the film’s inherent uniqueness there are some elements of influence from classics such as Terry Gilliam’s Brazil in the weird alternate reality setting and bureaucratic workplace environment. Mixed together with the dark worlds of David Lynch and a sprinkle of German expressionism. But the overall feeling that stayed with me, after the film had long faded, was the sense of anxiety. As if the whole film was one big anxiety dream, it reminded me of those nightmares you have, that while you’re in them, you’re so completely convinced they’re real, as the crowds laugh, misunderstandings get out of control, random moments occur and your body slowly fills with terror only for you to wake up and feel a rush of relief that it was only a dream. An amazing achievement but it doesn’t really bode well for ticket sales.
So its not a film you’ll want to see multiple times, but you definitely should at least once, to experience its beautifully crafted dreamscapes, as well as confirming that British film-making still has a huge host of talent in Ayoade and his crew, my only question is, what will he do next?
Rating: 44 Doubles out of 55