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Author Information

Janna is a staff writer for The Hudsucker. Born and raised in a small Ontario town, she made her move to Toronto for university and immediately fell in love with the excitement and pace of the big city. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production from York University, specializing in editing and screenwriting. She currently works as an assistant editor for a television production company. Janna loves stories told in all mediums, especially film, and takes herself to the movies as much as she possibly can. She can generally be found taking a Zumba class, exploring some of Toronto’s lesser-known gems, or relaxing with her fluffy feline roommate.

Janna Does TIFF: The Double

Over the next three months, The Hudsucker will be bringing you reviews from some of the most talked-about films from the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Stay tuned every Saturday for advice on which films you should watch out for in the coming year – and which ones you’re better off skipping.

In real life, two identical men with no relation to each other isn’t just improbable – it’s practically impossible. But in the hyper-stylized, surreal world of The Double, not only is it possible, but believable. And it’s the vision of director Richard Ayoade and the talent of actor Jesse Eisenberg that makes the audience buy it.

Credit Alcove Entertainment

The Double is the second feature-length film from British actor-cum-director Richard Ayoade. Starring Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska, and it’s an entertaining, absurd adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s novella about a meek man, Simon James, whose life is turned upside down in every possible way when he meets his exact physical double, James Simon.  Immediately people are drawn to James in ways they’ve never paid attention to Simon, and their welcoming attitudes allow James to do exactly what he’d hoped to do: completely take over Simon’s life.

Almost from the very first frame, it’s evident that conventional narrative rules don’t apply to The Double. Straightforward, easy-to-follow popcorn flick? Not a chance. The film is highly stylized and very surreal – the look is similar to that of a futuristic film made the 1950s, where everything is a little bit off and nothing looks real. It’s impossible to tell where or when the story takes place, and instead of being confusing and off-putting, it actually benefits the film. In a world that seems so unlike our own, the idea of Simon’s doppelgänger entering his life without anyone batting an eye doesn’t seem so absurd, after all. The film asks you to hop on board, and hop on board quick – and once you do, it’s stunning.

Everything in this film works towards setting up this hyper-reality, and it’s evident just how much effort has gone into creating this world. The lighting is almost film noir-esque, with high contrast between the light and dark parts of a shot – shadows are emphasized, almost hinting at the idea of good vs bad that comes into play with the two doppelgängers. The sound design, though, is what best sells the film’s reality. In emphasizing specific sound effects and playing with conventional ideas of background noise and film music, the sound is constantly building atmosphere and working to make this strange world real. It immediately helps to set the tone of the film for the audience. The writing, too, is sharp and witty, helping to alleviate the strange world and heavy subject matter. The jokes and quips are almost always surprising, lightening the mood when you least expect them.

Credit Alcove Entertainment

Jesse Eisenberg has the challenging task of playing two very different characters here, and it’s a testament to his acting that he’s able to not only pull off both roles, but to own them. Simon and James may appear identical, but their personalities are exact opposites – where Simon is scared and unremarkable, James is cocky and unforgettable. Eisenberg throws himself into both characters, and uses distinct mannerisms, speech patterns, body language, and expressions for both. Not once is there ever any doubt as to which character you’re seeing onscreen. The film is a real playground for Eisenberg to stretch his wings and experiment with playing different roles, and it’s unlike anything he’s done in the past. This may be one of his best performances to date.

There are several moments where the film has the potential to derail, where plots get a little muddled and things cross the line from experimental to confusing. But it always gets back on track with a joke or an interesting plot twist, and soon you’ve forgotten you were confused in the first place.

The Double is not a movie for the masses, but it’s one the masses should see. Open your mind to something different and let yourself experiment with film a little with this one – it’s worth it.

RATING: A-

The Double received rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival and is currently working out distribution deals nationwide.  In the meantime, you can watch the film’s trailer here.

 

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One Comment on “Janna Does TIFF: The Double”

  1. Judy Howsam September 15, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

    An excellent review of this film! After reading your review I feel an even greater appreciation of the film than I experienced during viewing. Eisenberg did indeed do a brilliant job of portraying both characters, making them entirely believable. Well written review of a very interesting film!

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