Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, James Fox, Noah Taylor, Cathy Moriarty, Sally Hawkins, Chris O'Dowd, Rade Serbedzija, J. Mascis
Written by: Richard Ayoade, Avi Korine, based on a novella by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Directed by: Richard Ayoade
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 93
Date: 05/09/2014

The Double (2014)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Cracked Mirror

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

As with his previous movie Submarine, director Richard Ayoade doesn't really bring anything new to the screen, but what he does bring is flush with style and a special kind of grim, darkly comic energy. The Double employs an unsettling kind of hissing, rattling soundtrack, much like many of David Lynch's movies. Add an environment of hopeless offices and apartments, set in some weird alternate future with old-fashioned dial phones and tube TV sets, and you have a genuine Kafka feel, with Brazil thrown in.

Simon (Jesse Eisenberg) lives in a creepy, alternate world, working in a soulless office and coming home to a miserable apartment. He loves the girl, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), in the next building -- he watches her create and tear up little paintings -- but lacks the courage to approach her. Enter James, an exact double of Simon, except that he's commanding, confident, and seductive. At first, it appears as if he wants to help Simon out of his funk, but it turns out that James thinks only of himself. He gets ahead in the office by stealing Simon's work, and sets to work seducing Hannah. Simon's situation soon grows critical and he realizes that he needs to take desperate measures.

Somehow Eisenberg brings a strong sense of humanity and identity to his dual role, perfectly fitting both the pained, passive part as well as the cocky, aggressive part. His angular face somehow becomes either handsome or nerdy when the occasion arises. It's a heartfelt performance in what might have been a constricting movie, and Mia Wasikowska perfectly compliments him. Neat little cameos (Sally Hawkins, Chris O'Dowd, etc.) help add to the welcome humor, making the darkness tolerable, and even enjoyable.

The Blu-ray release by Magnolia Pictures comes with a few brief studio-produced extras, one on the actors, one on the production design, one on the sets and locations, and an interview with the director. We also get a trailer for this and other Magnolia releases. It's a highly visual movie, but since the color scheme is so grimy and oppressive, Blu-ray fans may not be blown away by this otherwise fine presentation. Sound quality is tops.

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