TIFF 2013: The Double Review

TIFF-2013-The-Double-ReviewThis movie shouldn’t exist. An emotionally stunted adaptation of a Dostoyevsky novella, The Double seems more inspired by Kafkaesque nightmares than the psychological disintegration of a human being. I think there’s an old adage about doing one thing and doing it well. The Double tries to be a comedy and a thriller, and miserably fails in both aspects.

Jesse Eisenberg does double duty as Simon James, a meek office drone, and James Simon, his arrogant and outgoing doppelganger. There’s some humour mined from office bureaucracy (one security guard who can’t remember Simon James on a daily basis becomes a recurring joke) and the fact no one recognizes that Simon James and James Simon look exactly the same. However, what seems funny at first becomes grating and repetitive when the exact same jokes are repeated multiple times with little to no variation. And the film is inconsistent in dealing with the doppelgangers – at first, no one realizes the doppelgangers look alike, but then James Simon blackmails Simon James because they look like alike. It feels false and reveals a superficial logic in the story.

What I don’t like about this film is that there are no stakes. It doesn’t matter if Eisenberg (as meek Simon) is fraying at the edges. It doesn’t matter if he ends up winning over the girl who’s in love with the far more interesting doppelganger James. There’s no weight to anything. The film does a disservice to the characters by making everything meaningless. It’s just going through the motions, hitting familiar beats and themes with a wanton disregard for the audience. It’s hard to care when it feels like the filmmakers don’t. Maybe that’s the joke I’m just not getting.

The Double is not an enjoyable film to watch. At a slim 90 minutes, the film inexplicably feels overlong and drawn-out. Everything in this universe feels flat and drab – including the characters. The visuals are unexciting, the dry humour is slightly charming at first, dulling later, and this telling of the story regards the characters as mere marionettes spewing out tedious dialogue in a half-rate puppet show. This one’s a big miss.

Grade: D

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