Richard Ayoade made a name for himself with his directional debut, Submarine, in 2010. The quirky story of a young boys struggle to keep his parents together and loose his virginity was both heartwarming and utterly hilarious. With his latest feature film, Ayoade takes on the challenge of adapting the Dostoyevsky novel, The Double, to the big screen.
We meet Simon, a shy programmer played by Jessie Eisenberg. His talent goes unnoticed and/or unappreciated at the office, and he seems to be invisible to most of his co-workers. The security guard in the office greets him with “guests have to sign in” every day, his boss looks at him as a lazy employee and Hanna (played by the enormously talented Mia Wasikowska) , whom he is hopelessly in love with, doesn’t seem to give him a second thought.
He is unhappy, in a world which resembles a post-apocalyptic one, more than anything else. At times reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Jeunets, Delicatessen , and more recently the thematically reminiscent, Enemy. Ayoade has captured a depressing state of architecture and environment, which helps draw you into Simons miserable existence. His life takes a turn however, when the new guy at the office turns out to be his exact lookalike. James – also played by Eisenberg – is down to the bone an exact replica of our main protagonist, but their personality and character traits couldn’t be more different.
James is successful, charming and cunningly likable to the people around him. While they form a friendship at first, where James tries to show Simon how to seduce Hannah, it doesn’t take long for their relationship to change. For reasons I don’t want to give away in this review they form a rivalry, and the rest of the movie shows us how they deal with this.
Richard Ayoade is also known for directing music videos for bands such as Vampire Weekend, Arctic Monkeys and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
The Double is a lot darker than Ayoade’s previous work, both in tone and presentation, whether it’s Submarine or the fantastic episode of Community, Critical Film Studies. Yet, there is an unmistakable Ayoade signature to the entire film. It carries with it a charming – and sometimes funny – feel to it, in the midst of its strangest and darkest scenes. While Ayoade has made it clear he knows how to use his own signature, The Double loans a lot from other auteurs like David Lynch, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (as mentioned above) and even Stanley Kubrick. It would be easy to look at this with distaste, but Ayoade reflects his inspirations with such elegance and respect that it works perfectly. His episode of Community is a blatant homage to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and Louis Malle’s My Dinner With Andre, while Submarine in many ways mirrored Wes Andersons “young love” quirkiness.
He is still a young director, and will hopefully have many years to define his already outstanding signature. His movies are charming, quirky, memorable and orchestral masterpieces – especially The Double – and I can’t wait to see what he does next.