The Double (2013)
SPOILERS!! — I guess this just isn’t the year for films dealing with the duality of self. Similar to the buried theatrical-existence of Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy (which is technically both a 2013 & 2014 release) Richard Ayoade’s sophomore feature, The Double (his first being the off-kilter British ‘coming-of-ager’ Submarine from 2010) seems to have come and gone. Actually, upon initially learning-of and anticipating the arrival of both these pictures, I assumed (as past trends seem to dictate) that when you generally have two movies debuting in the same timeframe tackling what appears to be (at face-value) one very comparable conceit — Well usually it’s a given that one of these films succeeds while the other… not so much.
Yet in the case of both Enemy and now The Double, with regards to mainstream-awareness (or dollars) audiences just aren’t jiving — BUT hold that gasp! Let’s pretend for a second that we can agree that a film’s box-office performance plays such a meaningless role when it ultimately comes down to judging the authenticity of said underachiever’s quality. Lets pretend for a moment that we’re all still truthfully looking out for the little guys… the films that don’t have the billion-dollar budgets to secure cross-cultural, global-wide/mass-market advertising — Well in this idealized realm of film-radar scanning, The Double is kind of like honing in on this unearthly frequency that (at all costs) should not be lost. Based on the novel by Dostoyevsky, and in the same vein of the internalized demands tied to the film’s hyper-sensitive main-character (exceptionally played by Jesse Eisenberg) director/ co-writer Ayoade’s The Double commands to be seen and enjoyed for the romantic, cartoonish, and nightmarish head-trip that it is.
Now sure, by selling this as some sort of existential ‘ACME’ Jack-in-the-box this side of Tim Burton’s pesonal playpen, I’d imagine this doesn’t exactly entice the masses, but I’m legitimately befuddled as to how to describe this movie. While the filmmaking on display (like Enemy) mischievously makes a mess out of, what is at the end of the day, a very clear and concise tale, it is ultimately Ayoade’s whacked-out, meticulous and jittery style that I oh-so enjoyed. I really just can’t get enough of how this film is put together and constructed from a filmmaking standpoint. So what is this “style” you ask? Hmm… how about describing it as a French ‘New-Wave’ Lynchian hybrid of Wes Anderson, and maybe I’m getting warmer with accurately pinpointing how The Double vibes visually.
But beyond all the technical-hyperbole with regards to the movie’s mechanics (for me) Jesse Eisenberg (playing the film’s neurotic and diabolical dualist of a protagonist) deserves some fine praise for his work here. While at once fine-tuning the very Woody Allen-esque persona that has only increased his presence as a worldly recognized actor, Eisenberg also gets to obliterate that nebbish caricature of a stigma in favor of, well you guessed it, the exact opposite. Still preserving his knack for brilliant comedic-timing and the art of physical pantomimes, the actor also gets to refreshingly exercise his inner Tyler Durden, and it’s quite the surrealistic romp to watch both sides of Eisenberg’s self go to head-to-head in the battle for external love and long-overdue personal defiance.
If Richard Ayoade’s Submarine debatably only estranged itself from the crowd as possibly being too eccentric and too hip for its own good, The Double kind of grabs hold of that idiosyncrasy and “jumps the shark” while unabashedly running with scissors. But if you’re like me, and you enjoyed that moment when Wes Anderson flipped the creative-switch and went from Bottle Rocket all the way over to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, then The Double should absolutely not go unnoticed in your life. Actually, upon closer reflection, it might even be one of your favorite films of the year.