Everyone has flaws and everyone has aspects about themselves that they don't like. So what if someone who looked exactly like you turned up and was everything that you weren't? He got your girls, he stole your work and he was all round more popular, confident and charismatic than you? More to the point, what if someone who looked exactly like you did all of these things and no one even noticed?
This is the second feature film from Richard Ayoade after his marvelous quirky debut Submarine. Loosely based on the Dostoevsky novel the story follows Simon James - a quiet, timid character living in a bleak, soulless world where he goes unnoticed by his boss, the cute photocopier girl and even his own mother. Then one day James Simon appears, an exact double of Simon except he's better at everything in life - he has the cocky charm, he worms his way to the top in work and even gets the girls.
Ayoade draws plenty of mannered comedy from the protagonist's embarrassment, and tremendous atmosphere from a meticulously shot and lit film. It reminded me of an early Coen Brothers film, or perhaps Jeunet & Caro. There is a dark, moody comedic tone with some hilarious dialogue and genuine pathos. The real highlight here is Ayoade's directorial style with real shades of Terry Gilliam in its surrealist approach to the world he has created. He cranks up the volume of everyday things like taps running or footsteps to build tension up in scenes and Jesse Eisenberg is perfect casting for both roles.
Although it could be said that the themes explored here are borrowed liberally from other pictures, the true originality stems from Ayoade's distinctive style; with an interesting story line, cracking script and masterful sound editing, it becomes difficult to recount even a moment of the movie which could be described as 'dull' (and certainly not 'mundane').
I felt like I was watching a film made by a group of people passionate about what they were making. Everything came together to create an excellent piece of art. The music was terrific, the style and tone were spot on and I absolutely loved the dark, nonsensical world. It harked me back to watching old Tim Burton films where everything came together to make a film with such a distinct style that you can't help describe it without using the word 'auteur'.
The icing on the cake is most certainly the performance of our lead protagonist(s), both played by Jesse Eisenberg who has surely never been (or never had) so much fun on screen. Strong performances from his acting colleagues (which includes almost the entire cast of Submarine) compliment Jesse's fine work, and is one of the many aspects helping to pave the golden path of Ayoade's walk to stardom. Playing two characters in one film can't be easy, but Eisenberg comes into his own and gives both a distinct character even down to a different walk for both characters.
The Double really was fantastic. Everything comes together to make a fantastic piece of art: lighting, music, performances are incredible. Zany, hilarious and inventive, Ayaode is as confident as any auteur behind the camera. Certainly one to watch after two marvelous, yet different films.