19 minutes ago
Tuesday, 22 April 2014
Film: 'THE DOUBLE'
Based on a Dostoyevsky short story, it tells of a meek, mild-mannered, compliant, put-upon employee in a government office, Simon James, who suddenly finds that his doppelganger, named James Simon, has started working in the same establishment - physically identical, even wearing the same clothes. However, the new arrival owns a totally opposite personality - assertive, extrovert, super-confident - and, unlike himself, knows and demonstrates what it takes to wow the women, including the young co-worker with whom S.J. is infatuated though he's hopelessly unsuccessful in his attentions. J.S. shows how it's done.
Although variations on this idea have been seen on film before what I don't think I've seen until now is that the major conceit here is that no one else mentions or perceives the fact that the two are identical, even when they appear together. Each of them is treated by other staff members according to his own manner and expectations, one admired and accommodated, the other slighted and ignored. It's an interesting and insightful notion, namely that one's demeanour invites reactions appropriate to it, be it deference, admiration, rudeness, curt dismissal or whatever.
Set in a world not far removed from that of Terry Gilliam's accomplished 'Brazil' (1985), it all takes place at night in artificial light, mainly in sepia tint with occasional flashes of blue. The whole appearance is sombre which befits its going to some very dark places, a major area visited being that of suicide, though there are also brief instances of comedy to lighten the mood. The drama hinges on the rivalry between the two with S.J's growing envy and exasperation with J.S's easy manner, provoking him into drastic action. However, it's not a story with simple resolutions. Questions are purposely left hanging on the air which suits the cryptic narrative.
Jesse Eisenberg plays the two leads. The impish Wallace Shawn is S.J.'s office superior and there's a sprinkling of fairly well-known British actors in lesser roles. (I didn't recognise Sally Hawkins.)
Director and co-writer Richard Ayoade who has worked both on-screen on British TV for some years now as well as having a string of writing and directing credits to his name, now adds a significant entry to his record.
If I'd been of more receptive frame of mind I might have given this a higher score but, even so, I do recognise that this is solid piece of entertainment.................................7.