|A nebbish and a babe in Dostoyevskyville|
Dir. Richard Ayoade
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, James Fox
Review By Greg Klymkiw
You're alone in a fetid, dark, dank subway car save for one lone faceless fellow buried in a newspaper. You spy a babe through the window on another car. Your reverie is shattered when the one other person rudely tells you that you're in his spot. You move. The train stops, but your new position keeps you from catching up to the babe AND your brief case with your whole life in it gets stuck in the train door.
This is not going to be a good day.
This is the story of Simon (Jesse Eisenberg), a nebbish in a living nightmare - one in which we ourselves might all feel we're in from time to time. Such is the superb writing of Avi Korine and director Richard Ayoade that Dostoyevsky's immortal novella not only springs to life, but does so in ways that enhance the universal qualities of the original source material.
The beats of this perverse tale never miss a step and our eyes are glued to the screen thanks to a winning combination of the droll writing and its director's mise-en-scene which hangs clouds of dreamlike putrescence before us that are thick enough to cut with a knife.
The elements of nastiness and savagery within the grotesque corporate bureaucracy we're thrust into also cut with a knife. Simon is just trying to get ahead in life which means getting a girl and moving up in the squalid company he works for. Alas, he's badgered every time he tries to get into the office building since he's lost his I.D. and is furthermore assailed by his snarky boss Mr. Papadopoulos (Wallace Shawn) who feels Simon's just not pulling his weight.
Simon knows differently, though. He's been making great progress and he has some knock-em-dead ideas he wants to get to the CEO, the mysteriously monickered The Colonel (James Fox). He also has his eye on that babe Hannah (Mia Wasikowska) from the train. She works in the company's photocopy room and, as luck would have it, she lives in an apartment across the way from his. He can spy her (or rather, on her, through a telescope) every night.
The problem, it seems, is that nasty wretch he met on the train. That lout, James (Jesse Eisenberg - no, not a typo) is a new employee in his department at work and worse yet, he's a double for Simon. The difference, though, is that James is everything Simon isn't and the horror of this situation and the mounting layers of bureaucratic corporate chicanery all point to one thing - Simon is on his way out because James is rapidly taking over his life.
Adding insult to injury is one of my favourite elements of this twisted tome. Papadopoulos has a mega-babe teenage daughter Melanie secured in his office. He puts Simon in charge of mentoring her as she has no ambition. Perhaps Simon can score some points, but alas, it's only going to be his double James who scores. He scores BIGTIME and moves in on the hot, lithe, little lassie and fills some holes in her education. If Papadopoulos thinks Simon is drilling his pert daughter, it's going to be tits-up for our corporate dweeb.
The Double is almost always funny and Eisenberg clearly relishes the opportunity to play the two decidedly different sides of the coin. The movie has babes, of course, so this is definitely a good deal and Wallace Shawn is always a welcome presence in any movie.
Though the film does tend to get a tiny bit measured in its final third, resulting in a strangely predictable denouement (strange given the original tone of the picture), it's a movie that finally holds its own as a savage indictment of how humanity tends to get the life sucked out of it in a world where everyone is a worker bee, a mere cog in the machine.
It doesn't get scarier than that. Nor funnier.
And, uh, it has babes to boot.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ Three-and-a-half-stars
The Double is now available on a gorgeously transferred Blu-Ray with a variety of extra features from D Films.
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