Friday, May 16, 2014

"The Double": Jesse Eisenberg stars in a film concept that is becoming a bit trite

The Double”, an abstract comedy or satire directed by Richard Ayoade, based on the novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, is rather like “Enemy” (March 22), if simpler and more bare-bones. 

This time, the acting gimmick comes from Jesse Eisenberg (as Simon and then James), who, as the film opens, works as an analyst in a dark office managed by “The Colonel” and a mincing underling played by Wallace Shawn (“My Dinner with Andre”).  The place has early 1950’s technology, which is exaggerated to become comic-book like, as if it were from Russia, or perhaps a parallel universe.  (The film was shot in the UK.)  The atmosphere is dark and subterranean and definitely borrows from David Lynch, to the point that I wondered if the Radiator Lady was going to show up.   Simon is a bit of a wuss, and has trouble fending off bureaucratic bullying, as well as approaching Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). He lives in a grungy flat that he reaches from a rickety subway (like the old LL Canarsie line in NYC).  One evening, playing “Rear Window” with a telescope, he witnesses a neighbor jump to his death.

Shortly, he starts glimpsing his doppelganger (James), who soon starts to interact with him, displaying a social assertiveness that the bosses like.  James starts coaching Simon, like a twin brother.  Eventually, conflict is inevitable, as is possible tragedy.  If Simon dies, will James in a sense become “both people” at the same time?

There’s a touching scene where James puts Simon to bed, and I thought about the scene from “Judas Kiss” where Danny becomes intimate with a copy of himself 15 years from the future.  There’s a touch of that idea here.

Jesse Eisenberg carries off both roles effectively.  He’s always dressed prudishly, with his top collar buttoned, and lock brown socks.  Oddly, he’s in short sleeves.  Now, who else could have played this part?  The real Mark Zuckerberg?  I don’t think he’d want to.   Timo Descamps is simply too assertive for the Simon role (the “Shane” charisma, which is rather like James in this film), but I can picture Richard Harmon (“the greatest of all time”) as being cast for this film, for both sides.

The official site (Magnolia) is here.  I saw this before a modest audience Friday night at Landmark E Street, but it was also screened by FilmfestDC, which says it cannot operate in 2015 without more funding (letter ).

Wikipedia reports that Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska, and is quite fond of cats and an advocate for homeless animals.  
Picture: model of the "training area" (on Titan) in my screenplay: "I" would be living in the barracks building represented by the red block. 

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