Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska star in writer-director Richard Ayoade’s updating of the famous Dostoevsky novella about a man who finds his life being usurped by his doppelganger.
"You're in my place." So begins meek Simon's descent into a nightmare while on his way to work. Simon is referring to his usual seat on the subway, but it's a phrase with worrying echoes. Because the man occupying Simon's seat looks exactly like him: a double.
This delicious existential crisis comes from the pen of Fyodor Dostoevsky, specifically his novella The Double. Richard Ayoade, who made his feature film debut directing Submarine after years as a writer/ actor in bizarrely funny UK television, updates the nineteenth-century Russian story to explore timeless anxieties about who we really are.
When Simon (Jesse Eisenberg) gets to work he finds that this double has usurped his tenuous position in the company. Routinely humiliated by his boss (played to perfection by Wallace Shawn), the neurotic Simon now has to deal with a doppelgänger that is everything he isn't: confident, charming, successful, superficial.
Eisenberg plays both roles with complete conviction. As Simon, he is fatally ineffectual, unable to communicate his ideas at work even when they're brilliant — and a desperate failure when it comes to the woman of his dreams, played by Mia Wasikowska. On the other hand Eisenberg plays Simon's double as a gloss on his performance in The Social Network: a character fed by the fumes of his own ego. To watch the two of them battle in Ayoade's seamless movie magic is to see an eternal psychic struggle come to life.
The Double draws on cinema's rich
history of paranoia, absorbing the lessons
of Welles, Lynch, Gilliam, Polanski; even
Charlie Kaufman. But this is no mere copy.
It's a stark, comic original.