The Double

An awkward office drone becomes increasingly unhinged after a charismatic and confident look-alike takes a job at his workplace and seduces the woman he desires.


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  • ★★★½ review by Adam Cook on Letterboxd

    Richard Ayoade follows up his New Wave tribute on the Welsh coast with an altogether different film. It still possesses a similar deadpan whimsy, and the entire cast of Submarine even turn up in various cameo roles, but The Double is a droll absurdist comedy set in a drab bureaucratic dystopia. It’s a bold and assured change that whilst wearing its influences proudly still exhibits enough personality of its own.

    The Double is a loose adaptation of Dostoevsky’s famous novella as Simon James, a lowly office clerk, has his life thrown into turmoil when his exact physical double joins his department. To make matters worse this newly appointed doppelganger, named James Simon no less, is his exact opposite in personality - a charismatic and confident cad. Has Simon created this double from his own fractured psyche or is this impostor trying to steal his un-charmed life?

    Ayoade has created an existential comic nightmare filled with telling details and a paranoia-fuelled funk. The opening minutes wonderfully set the scene, not only establishing Simon as a nebbish loner who doesn’t seem to fit in this retro-fitted future, but also establishing his equally lonely object of affection and the strange off-kilter world they live in. It’s a beautifully efficient sequence that tells you everything you need to know.

    Jesse Eisenberg stars as both Simon and James managing to simultaneously subvert and reinforce his familiar screen persona in the same film. Simon is a mumbling introvert seemingly invisible to all those around him whilst James is the brash fast-talker who, on the surface at least, is everything Simon aspires to be. It’s a solid dual performance even if the roles are hardly a stretch for an actor who has made a career out of playing unsympathetic smart arse nerds.

    Simon’s existential crisis is smartly teased throughout the film as he gradually loses all sense of his lightly-grasped identity. It’s rather a shame that beyond the Simon/James conflict the film lacks any real dramatic substance. His tentative romance with a sweet-natured copy girl (Mia Wasikowska) fails to really resonate largely because she never transcends her function as being an object of his affections. It’s a real shame, not only depriving the film of some much needed heart but also wasting a talented actress in the process.

    Although it is easy to pick out the influences liberally sprinkled throughout the film - Kafka, Gilliam, Welles and perhaps most tellingly of all, Polanski’s The Tenant - what is most pleasing about the film is that Ayoade and his creative team have crafted a film that never feels like an empty homage. The Double exists in perpetual night and is bathed in an unnatural and sickly light. It’s ominous but also strangely beautiful and Erik Wilson’s cinematography is key to the film’s success whilst being supported by a fitting industrial soundscape.

    It is ultimately the evocative world of The Double and its oppressive atmosphere that stays with you the longest. The characters are engaging and dryly amusing but as superficial as the seemingly pointless office work they complete. Traditionally this would be ruinous for a film but Ayoade commits so fully to this odd nightmare that the flimsy characterisation rarely feels problematic.

    By no means perfect The Double is nonetheless a curious and accomplished comedy. Ayoade once again demonstrates great skill in incorporating his cinematic influences into a film that still possesses a strong identity of its own.

  • ★★★★ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd

    take Dostoyevsky, add 1 part Gilliam, 1 part Tati & a thimble of early Woody Allen. stir to near-perfection. i wasn't impressed by the instantly forgettable SUBMARINE, but Ayoade wows here, bending the hyper-stylized aesthetic to his will and greater purpose.

    the 2nd half doesn't feel quite as precise as the first (likely by design), but the film coheres quite nicely as a refreshingly difficult look at how everyone desperately wants to feel different, and that's what makes us all the same. curious as to how this one will sit with me... and holy shit, mia wasikowska. and holy shit, andrew hewitt's score.

  • ★★★★ review by DirkH on Letterboxd

    The Double is an Orwellian nightmare, doused in sickly artificial light and imbued with delightfully awkward absurdism.

    Ayoade has crafted a film that feels like a scrapbook of his influences all blended together to create his own unique vision of a classic story. While it perhaps does not explore the doppelganger motif as deeply as Dostoyevsky's story, it still makes all the right choices in how it wants to present itself. It's as bizarre as its premise, finding a lot of humour in awkward places. There is always a risk that the more serious and dramatic directions the story will inevitably go, will fall flat because of the tone it sets, but I did not find that to be the case here at all.

    Aided by a terrific score and an amazing performance by Eisenberg, Ayoade's film has ended up as a tightly paced, dark, witty and absurd exploration of insanity and identity.

  • ★★★½ review by willa on Letterboxd

    *hannibal buress voice* all jesse eisenbergs is the same

  • ★★★★½ review by Caty Alexandre on Letterboxd

    Since everyone is checking Godzilla this weekend I decided to counter the wave and I went to the theater to see The Double which I'm interested about since I've heard of it.

    Richard Ayoade is very peculiar as a director. In The Double, similar with what he did in Submarine, he proves again that he likes to write about awkward characters with awkward ways of living their lives, different looks and pretty unfit personalities.

    Simon is just a simple clerk at an office where no one notices him. He is always so shy and unconfident that people make fun of him and most of the times don't believe in his skills at his job. When a new employee arrives at the office he starts to get paranoid because the guy is physically equal to him but with a totally opposite personality and it seems like no one has noticed the difference.

    The Double is definitely a very creative film with a very truthful story told in a very clever way! It might seem like a very confusing film but in my point of view is actually quite simple. I have my own interpretation of the story but that I won't tell in here because I don't want to spoil anything for you.

    The message that we took from it its very sad because it really reflects the world that we live in. People love a confident person, a person who is smart and nice to everyone but usually that kind of people are the most cynical and they will be the first who will stab you behind your back. But those are the ones who usually conquer the world.

    The performances are great! Jessie Einsenberg gives an absolutely amazing performance and he was perfect to this role. Mia Wasikowska is always lovely, I think she will become a very well recognized actress. The supporting cast was also great in their small roles.

    The cinematography is absolutely fantastic! The light, the set design, the camera work and all of the colors used were just perfect! A gorgeous film to look at!

    I don't see everyone enjoying this film. I think it is not of everybody, and by that I mean, it might not please those who won't appreciate quirkiness in a film, and you definitely have to expect a lot of quirkiness from this one but I really enjoyed it and I think it shines for us the passion putted into the making of it. Even if you are not a fan of quirky films, I think you should give this one a try!

    The Double is a film that certainly deserves recognition. I think it might be one of my favorites of this year.

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