Sometimes going out to the theaters is hard work. If you’re anything like me, the fact that you have to put on pants is already a huge disappointment. You’ve reached the end of your queue and have already seen everything worth seeing on Netflix, so what can you do? That’s right, I have a solution that you don’t need pants for! Rent something on video on demand (VOD). There’s a recent trend where films are being released online before they even hit theaters, and it’s usually cheaper than the price of admission. Every week when movies come out on VOD, I’ll narrow down the best one for that week. This week’s pick is: The Double
Once in a blue moon, when the stars perfectly align and Mars is in retrograde (whatever that means), you have a dream. Not just any ordinary dream, but a nightmare that feels so real and so close to what is happening in your life that even when you wake up (usually in a cold sweat), your reality feels shattered. All day you feel shaken. It was so real, but it didn’t happen… right? Or did it? Those of you that have not had the misfortune of experiencing this, consider yourselves lucky. It makes you question your sanity and the nature of reality. If something feels real, smells real, and looks real, doesn’t that make it real?
The Double plays out like a live-action nightmare happening in real time that you can’t escape. Simon James (Jesse Eisenburg) is an unremarkable, completely forgettable administrative worker who doesn’t question his rather shitty lot in life. Through a telescope, he watches the world, especially the woman he has a crush on, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). They work together, and even though he goes out of his way to run into her, he never has the courage to ask her out. One day, he encounters what appears to be his doppelganger (person who looks like him). It’s said that when you encounter your doppelganger, its an omen for chaos, destruction, disaster, and even death in your own life.
Foreshadowing abound, Simon’s life takes a downward spiral after witnessing a man jumping to his death while he was stalking Hannah through his telescope. The next day at work, he meets a new employee named James Simon (Jesse Eisenburg), who is already praised and liked by everyone. Frustrated by the uncanny resemblance, Simon confronts James and they become sort of friends. That is, until James quickly takes advantage of Simon, stealing Simon’s work, taking interest in Hannah only after Simon said he liked her, and then basically taking every success Simon could have had (if Simon was assertive and confident enough). A power struggle ensues and only one of them can come emerge from it, but which will it be?
Writer/Director Richard Ayoade had really outdone himself. The way he re-imagined and modernized (when compared to the original source material) Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Double, is a pure artistic vision. The dark tones are only enhanced by the light notes of humor throughout the film. Ayoade’s avant garde,experimental style and minimalist set design sound like an odd couple, but they actually work great together. Comparing it to Brazil would do both films a disservice since each deals with completely different subject matters and different approaches to their main characters. Where Brazil leans more towards the dream-like and fantastical, The Double is set in a dark, real world based nightmare.
The Double‘s story comes to life through efforts of a very capable cast, most notably Jesse Eisenberg. In his best work since The Social Network, Eisenberg portrays the polarized personalities of Simon and Jesse with such ease. The story basically rests on his shoulders as we follow him on his descent into madness. In between the fast-paced dialogue and front-lit shots there is also a very complex story that leaves the ending open to interpretation. Is he sane or going insane? Is his individuality-stifling job and isolated modern living to blame? Are both Simon and James real, or if not which is the original? You’ll have fun asking yourself these questions and more while watching it. Make sure you make time to watch it again, because you’ll undoubtedly feel the need to shortly after having watched it the first time.
RATING: ★★★★★★★★★(9/10 stars)