The Double Review: Twice the Eisenberg, Double the Schtick

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I’m thinking of all the Jesse Eisenberg movies I really like (read: The Social Network and Zombieland) and I’m realizing he wasn’t really what I liked about either of those movies.

Yes, the young actor brought a perfect amount of pompousness to Mark Zuckerberg, but what really made The Social Network work was Andrew Garfield’s Eduardo. Meanwhile, Zombieland would be nothing without Woody Harrelson and Emma Stone.

Between those two movies, he plays a hero and a villain. In The Double he plays both. The Richard Ayoade directed film is a psychological thriller/black comedy that puts Eisenberg from Zombieland against Eisenberg from The Social Network. This wouldn’t be a problem if Eisenberg had the skills capable of connecting with his audience. Here he plays Simon James, the nice one, and James Simon, the not-so-nice one. Simon is a corporate drone for an ambiguous company that feels out of date.

The office is dark aside from the foreboding golden hue overlaying all the action. The technology, while still human made, is larger and more invasive than any computer before 1980, but tweaked just so things seem a little other-worldy. That’s what The Double does best, make you feel like you’re in a messed up dream land that has just slightly altered what you think you know. The set direction is really interesting, only comparable to some of the creepier sequences from A Nightmare on Elm Street. It compliments the cinematography perfectly, making sure you never feel like this is taking place in a real location. Everything feels closed off except for whatever Simon is focusing on, lending a dream-like quality to the film. The ideas and the attention to detail are actually quite fascinating.

Which is why it is too freaking bad that neither the script nor Eisenberg give us anything to latch onto. Even the usually talented Mia Wasikowska is unable to escape the trap the film’s story sets for itself.

There is absolutely no human element to this film. Eisenberg plays heightened versions of characters that worked previously for him. His performance is just too safe, as is Wasikowska’s. The only good thing I can really say about The Double is that when you don’t care enough to look at the characters, there is plenty to behold in the sets behind them. Grade: C-

By Matt Dougherty

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