The Double, the second film of Richard Ayoade – whose first, Submarine, accrued a BAFTA nom for Outstanding Debut – might not receive enough mainstream exposure to completely revamp his image as “Moss from The IT Crowd“, but as far as offbeat, art-house adaptations of Dostoyevsky novellas go, it’s a cracker.
Jesse Eisenberg stars as Simon James, a lonely, hardworking and underappreciated office drone. He may spy on his neighbor, Hannah – a radiantly normal Mia Wasikowska – with a telescope, but Eisenberg’s wistful expressiveness avoids overt creepiness.
Then his doppelganger, a man named James Simon, turns up at Simon’s place of work: confident, commanding, a conman, seducer, James is everything he’s not. Even side-by-side, identically dressed, Eisenberg’s slight, studied smirk as James Simon sets him apart from the shy, downcast original. As the twin proceeds to take over his life, Simon is forced, against type, to either fight for or surrender it.
Subtle, enthralling, and beautifully – if nightmarishly – shot, The Double develops its central Freudian trope magnificently. With cameos by Submarine’s Craig Roberts and the elusive Chris Morris, it also works both as a psychological drama and studied comedy of Kafkaesque frustration.