It seems like only a couple of weeks since I was saying that The Zero Theorem was the answer to the question “What would have happened if Kafka had taken ALL the drugs?” and now here I am reflecting on The Double, which - with all due respect to both Dostoevsky and Palahniuk - felt like a breakneck effort to show us what would have happened if Franz Kafka had written Fight Club.
The Double is billed as comedy, but don’t go expecting to be laughing. It’s a fascinating and uncomfortable movie, and while there are occasional funny moments, the comedy is mostly of the if-I-don’t laugh-at-this-all-I-can-do-is-cry variety. Up to now Jesse Eisenberg has always been the kind of guy I thought I’d like to see suffer in a movie - or even real life; I’m shallow that way - but The Double had me rethinking that policy slightly.
It’s one of those movies which leaves you wondering afterwards; “Would that have worked if it had been set in the real world as opposed to the weird-ass steam-punk life-under-communism dystopia?” I’ve a horrible feeling that it would just have been even more depressing. The off-kilter world gave a bit of distance to Jesse Eisenberg’s horrible life and even more horrible job; I was sitting there asking myself if this was all propaganda by The Man; sure, you think your job sucks, but look how much worse it could be if computers were still running on valves and they expected you to do data entry anyhow. The worrying thing, probably, is how little work they had to do to get modern England to look like 1940’s Czechoslovakia’s idea of the future; someone should show the movie to Dave Cameron and just let that hang there, see if he says anything.
The engine of the movie is that Jesse’s dead end world of miserable job, everyone taking advantage of him and doomed infatuation with his cute co-worker gets torn to pieces when his doppelgänger shows up and steals everything while being cooler and more fun than he could ever be. The doppelgänger is everything which he can never be, including a massive entitled douchebag. But is he even real? Do not expect to get to the end of the movie with an answer to that question. The ending of Inception is more clear cut.
Is it worth seeing? Yes, because you’re not going to see anything else like it any time soon. Make a heck of a double bill with Zero Theorem, come to think of it. The clunky world is almost worth the price of admission on its own, and the movie’s stuffed with ringers to steal scenes out from under Jesse Eisenberg. Having said that, my favourite bit is Mia Wasikowska going off the chain as she reenacts her confronting a stalker the day before he threw himself off a building; the kicker being when she runs out of steam and asks “Do you think that might have had anything to do with him killing himself?”. It’s simultaneously hilarious - the whole audience burst out laughing - and a wonderful character moment. She’s come a long way since she played Alice for Tim Burton.