I hate, absolutely hate, being ignored. When I have something important to say, I want people to listen. And I’m sure some psychoanalyst could tell me where this deep-seated character flaw comes from, but regardless, by God does it bother me.
That’s why Richard Ayoade’s “The Double,” while a very good film, really grinds my gears.
Based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novella of the same name, “The Double” follows Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg), a bona fide miserable nobody.
He’s worked at an office for seven years, but nobody knows his name. When he excels at work, nobody notices. When he talks to his boss, he’s both dismissed and scolded.
On top of being a nobody, Simon is the most unfortunate person in the world. The elevator breaks down, and he kicks it in an effort to restart it. Of course, then the alarm goes off. And whenever Simon tries to pass the security checkpoint at work, his ID card doesn’t work because apparently his name doesn’t even exist in the system.
The bleak, almost ‘80s inspired universe that’s out to get Simon is also visually dreary and grim.
The only colors are browns, yellows, blues, greys and blacks—basically, a whole lot of boring. More obviously, every scene in the movie is either inside a badly lit building or at night.
The subdued ambiance sucks the life not only out of the film’s world but out of the audience’s, as it’s exhaustingly depressing and lifeless. But that’s when you know it’s good—when the atmosphere of the film is so impacting that it leaves you empty.
Anyway, apart from the affecting atmosphere, Eisenberg’s acting is flawless as he simultaneously plays two completely different characters.
Enter Simon James 2.0, James Simon. They don the same ill-fitting suit and shaggy haircut, but somehow James is more confident, charismatic and alluring. And by the second day of work, everyone loves him.
At first the two have a sort of tentative friendship, as James gives Simon tips on winning the girl of his dreams, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska).
But, of course, as all things do for Simon, things go downhill.
James gets the girl and eventually control Simon’s life, taking credit for his work, while blackmailing him.
It gets so bad that Simon is essentially forced on the street, as James begins to use his apartment as a one-night stand getaway.
Psychologically, “The Double” is horrible, as the audience watches this depressing man’s life unfurl with no one to come to his aid. However, eventually the bleak conflict crescendos to a wonderfully done, satisfying conclusion.
I was biting my nails the entire time, watching in sheer terror as Simon was essentially invisible to the world. And at least for me, I’ll classify “The Double” as a horror movie because wow is it scary.