The Double is the latest film from UK funny man Richard Ayoade (“Submarine”), and what an utterly depressing tale it is. Set in a dystopian world (future? past? it’s hard to say) where work seems pointless and suicide is commonplace, Jesse Eisenberg plays Simon, a timid everyman working to the best of his limited ability and too shy to express his love for the girl of his dreams Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). What he needs is a dose of balls and how better to have that administered than the assistance of a confident, successful mentor in the form of James – a new worker at “The Colonel”‘s (James Fox) factory (producing whatever it is this factory actually makes). But James is the exact physical double of Simon – a fact that goes unnoticed by everyone other than Simon himself. Is it an alter-ego? Is it actually him? What plays out is a Jekyll and Hyde-style power play between James and Simon, and a love/lust triangle (of sorts) between the two of them and Hannah.
The film is based on the book by Dostoyevsky (which I haven’t read) that charts the mental breakdown of an office-worker in St Petersburg when faced with his exact double. So I’m guessing the film is pretty true in spirit and style to the book.
I was looking forward to seeing this film. But I really didn’t like it. There – I’ve said it, in the face of all of the rave reviews and ratings that seem to be being made. I thought it was overly pretentious.
But let’s accentuate the positive first. It starts well, channelling early-Terry Gilliam in its painting with muted colours and bizzarre activity of a place that is both like and totally unlike our world. And there’s a nod as well to Rear Window in its setting of two facing apartment blocks, a peeping-Tom and a telescope. The photography is excellent, with clever shots and outstanding lighting effects. The the soundtrack, by Andrew Hewitt, is both quirky, surprising and very fitting to the mood and style of the film. And some of the dialogue – particularly for me the scene with the Colonel’s acerbic secretary played by Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) – is very funny.
Both Eisenberg and Wasikowska are excellent in their roles. The unrequited love affair between Simon and the self-harming Hannah, the former scrabbling through the rubbish to re-piece together her blood-based paintings, is both touching and sweet. I could have had a whole film of that.
But soon after the double appeared, the whole film came off the rails for me, becoming utterly confusing and descending progressively into a spiral of depression that left my wife and I feeling really down in the dumps. Perhaps I just wasn’t clever enough to ‘get’ all of the nuances of the plot? Either way, this is a real downer of a film, and a warning should go out to anyone with either self-harming tendencies or thoughts of suicide to NOT go and see this film as it could exacerbate your mental state.
Pretty much like “Under the Skin”, this will be an art-house film that will divide opinion. But for me – it was a disappointment.
Fad Rating: FFf.