The Double-Review-NZIFF

The Double is a comedy twist on the traditional film noir from director, writer and actor Richard Ayoade.

Simon James (Jessie Eisenberg) lives a meek existence, reserved, largely ignored and seemingly unrecognisable to the point of being forgettable. He pines for a girl, a girl whom he both works with and lives opposite from. As well as his depressing work life he visits his sick mother in a creepy care home, with little love coming his way. When a charismatic new co-worker, James Simon (also Eisenberg), arrives Simon seems to be the only one to notice that, well, he’s stolen his face. He’s his double. Simon’s struggle to be noticed, and accepted as ‘a real boy’, drives him to a new level of self discovery and courage.

The Double is beautifully shot in a dull world of dark bland colours ,and of simple lives shown via the characters modest appearance and living standards. It’s as theatrical as it clever. The script is sharp and witty, but manages a thriller style mystery. The world these characters live in is recognisable but undefinable in it’s retro, yet modern appearance.

Musically it transports you to this odd dreamlike place where you may question how Tyler Durdenesq this is going to turn out. The Fight Club comparisons are unavoidable due to the opposite nature of the ‘doubles’. Also the characters surroundings fade into the background, in favour of concentration onto the individuals. However, every little detail is perfectly executed, and everything just fits, and is just ever so surreal. I would imagine it is intended to be this way to ensure the viewer remains unsure of the main protagonists’ sanity. Comparisons to Terrry Gilliam spring to mind.

Eisenberg excels as both Simon and James, and his transformations are dramatic enough to make each standout individually. It’s a pretty intense exploration of self, and a want for companionship from a man who has to make excuses to talk to a girl he so obviously likes. Hannah, the love interest played by Mia Wasikowska, also mirrors Simon in her lonely existence, yet is drawn out to the wrong version of his face on James. The cameos are perfectly cast, including an appearance from Ayoade’s IT Crowd buddies Chris O’Dowd and Chris Morris.

Despite some of it’s more sinister parts, this is an entertaining and funny film with a traditional feel for championing the underdog. An artistically executed and enjoyable watch on all the senses.

The Double screens on 28 July in Auckland and various locations during the NZIFF.

Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar

4.5 stars

4.5 stars