Jesse Eisenberg has the opportunity in The Double that every serious actor dreams of—playing the lead and the supporting roles. It's particularly sweet when you consider one role is a hapless, screw-up whose social life amounts to watching his beloved Sarah (Mia Wasikowska) in her apartment through a spotting scope and the other is as a smooth talking ladies' man. Talk about dramatic reach.
This could only happen in a dystopian future, of course. Director Richard Ayoade's world is 1984 meets Brazil (in fact, Terry Gilliam might have cause for a look-and-feel action). Workers in funky uber-cubicles data crunch on machines from the Hydraulic Age. The color scheme of the film is beige on ash, with leaden highlights. The art direction owes its inspiration to the London Blitz bomb shelters.
Not surprisingly, suicide is rampant.
Simon works diligently at a job that appears to be producing demographic marketing information for the control of the sallow denizens of this bleak future. If it weren't for Ed Snowden's leaks on NSA, The Double would be science fiction. Instead, it's slate-gray comedy.
Simon's life is uneventfully bleak—no one much notices him or his work. Unless it's to mess with him, in the case of an officious door guard and the czarina of the copy machine. Even that goes to hell when James shows up. He's Simon's exact double, down to the ill-fitting, rumpled gray suit. No one notices the similarity—something that exasperates Simon.
They do notice James, however--he's the coolest dude in dystopia. Imagine Eisenberg channeling The Fonz. (You're correct if you guessed that nebbish-by-nature Eisenberg can't quite pull off slick femme fatale.)
In an excruciating progression, we watch James steal Simon's job, his Sarah and finally his identity.
Never fear, The Double has a desolately happy ending that could only be found in a Fyodor Dostoyevsky story—on which the film is based, of course.
The Double's plot is meaty enough for a terrific short film. As it is, the 93-minute film could use diligent editing if backers hope to launch beyond the art houses—and way more Wally Shawn (Simon and James' boss)
Last screening: Saturday 5:30 p.m., Prospector Square Theatre, Park City.