Astrology: Film: Review: ‘The Double’ (2014)

Magnolia Pictures

Magnolia Pictures

There’s nothing like being at odds with how one projects oneself into the world, and then, as a final blow, having fate drop in a doppelgänger who’s so much more charismatic than you. Bummer. Twice.

That’s exactly the situation facing a shy, lonely young office clerk named Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg) in The Double, directed and co-written by Richard Ayoade and based on the Dostoyevsky novella. Simon works in a futuristic yet shambling central-European-communist-style bureaucracy – think windowless decor, saturated with browns, blacks and grays. He’s got one of those bland, paper-bag personalities that begs either to be abused or ignored. In other words, he’s an earnest doormat – the total opposite of newly arrived and physically identical James Simon.

Doppelgänger James (Eisenberg, again) wanders into Simon’s job one day, exuding off-the-chart confidence and can-do attitude – even though he’s professionally incompetent, necessitating Simon’s taking an aptitude test for him – that wows the immediate supervisor (Wallace Shawn) and other suits. None of the honchos seem to realize that James and Simon are lookalikes.

James, slick and a whiz at giving the public what it craves, becomes Simon’s life coach and romantic advisor, for which Simon is grateful. The situation sours, however, when James uses his charm to become better acquainted with Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), the co-worker that Simon has a crush on, but who is, like the rest of the world, oblivious to his existence.

Essentially, Simon and James are twins, which provides The Double with an archetypal Mercurial and Gemini flavor. Except, here, instead of the duo’s lifelong link since birth, James is the proverbial Johnny-come-lately, a figure who genuinely threatens to wipe out whatever washed-out identity Simon has left. At some point, the increasingly desperate Simon takes to heart some previous advice from James – to go after what you want – and decides to etch himself a bolder identity.

Although it toys with a Twins mindset of conjoined identities, The Double, with a strong supporting cast (including Wallace Shawn, Noah Taylor, Cathy Moriarty, Chris O’Dowd, Sally Hawkins, Craig Roberts and Paddy Considine) insists in its ultra-surreal way that getting inside yourself is not only possible but also a mandate when an exterior force threatens self-expression. To paraphrase a key piece of dialog: I am in my place.

Astrology Film Rating: ☿ (Mercury)

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