Tuesday 8 April 2014

The Double

Are you sitting in a cinema feeling nervous, uneasy, slightly confused and… Loving it? You must be seeing The Double.

(Like what I did there? Maybe not my best...)

It hasn’t had much promotion, but The Double is the latest black comedy directed from London’s very own Richard Ayoade of IT Crowd, Mighty Boosh and Big Fat Quiz Of The Year fame. The film is based on Dostoyevsky’s novella of the same name, written in the mid 1800s.

Simon James is, if we’re honest, a bit of a loser. He works hard with no recognition, he looks after his sick mother who shows him no thanks, and he fancies the blonde at work, who’s falling for the new guy, James Simon - who looks and sounds exactly like him. But there is something different about James; he’s charismatic and confident and with this, manipulative and mean, and soon Simon is once again completely taken advantage of. With his misfortune increasing with every turn, how much is too much, and what will it take for Simon to rid his doppelganger?

I’d say that Ayoade has taken a modern twist on a classic, but as it’s set in a fantastical forties (… or fifties… or sixties…) setting, it’s not exactly brought up to the present. This of course makes the film incredibly stylish amongst the gloomy, theatrical staging. As an audience member it’s like you’re looking down into a magical world, with the story being played out almost in puppet form (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen The Grand Budapest Hotel, which exudes the same sensation).

I don’t know who’s responsible for the film’s Wikipedia page, but really, E for effort. A seven-sentence plot description? Yes, The Double has one, big overall theme, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in content. The dialogue is witty, fast-paced and thrown back and forth between the cast members effortlessly; Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska and Jess Eisenberg (really, it does feel like three of them) are joined by fantastic though brief performances by a host of recognisable faces, including Sally Hawkins, Chris O’Dowd and Wallace Shaun.

If you do go and see The Double, stick with it. In the first ten or so minutes I felt like I’d made a horrible mistake by taking my friend along, but later when we were both chuckling, I was pleased I’d stayed. It’s unlike most films I’ve seen, but just like other visionary directors (again, like Mr Anderson), I feel The Double is the start of a whole host of great films to come from Richard Ayoade.

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