Tuesday, May 20, 2014

[Review] The Double

Richard Ayoade had a great directorial debut with 2011's quirky dramedy, Submarine. His new film, The Double is a bleaker and moodier follow-up, and overall, it's much less endearing. While Submarine found Ayoade channeling Wes Anderson, The Double employs shades of David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, and sometimes Alfred Hitchcock. Those are all formidable influences, and the film is visually interesting, but the middling narrative content often carries a dreamlike incoherency that is too repetitive and drab to fully engage.

Jesse Eisenberg gives two solid performances in this story about a guy who meets his twin of opposite personality. Simon is the first one we're introduced to. He's reserved, geeky, and he has a crush on a co-worker named Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). Eventually, Simon's brash counterpart, James, enters and shakes things up. Unlike this year's other double drama, Enemy, the dopplegangers are buds at first, sort of joining forces--hanging out like two bros in a surreal dystopian world. But conflict arises when their buddyship is spoiled by sneaky motives.

The film is highly stylized, almost feeling like parody of modern arthouse (but it's serious). The glitchy soundtrack and active doom-zoom camera molds with the flickery, low-key lighting and sepia tones, lingering on strange machinery and dour sets. It's loaded with abrupt edits and in-your-face idiosyncrasies--Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis makes two random two-second cameos. The Double drowns itself in all of this, and there isn't enough strong story to keep it alive. It's a prime example that not all experimenting is good experimenting.

One of the redeeming factors is the deadpan exchanges between Simon and James. But otherwise, The Double is deep in snoozy, check-your-watch territory.


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