The Double

Watched this again for the first time since initially seeing it five years ago; still into it. The strange gel-lit stageworld this movie creates is still so fascinating—I’ve yet to see another movie feel so much like it takes place in some sort of contained system, not even a Wes Anderson. This is Dostoevsky, but it’s a BECKETT play, super much, a production of Endgame I once saw the only thing that comes to mind for bleakly existential tragicomic comparison.

I was surprised this wasn’t tagged as horror on Letterboxd, what with the constant dread, the dark & sharp violin score, the fact that the whole thing takes place in a seeming perpetual night without an ounce of daylight ever lightening the chiaroscuro shadows. And there’s blood and death and knives and jump-scares, even, though of the gasp kind not the scream kind. And that colored light…I know I’m always talking about The Double’s colored light, but that colored light! Goldenrod and teal! The neon cross glowing on the church! Interiors like Terry Gilliam gone Brutalist! I just love looking at this thing a lot!

This time around I was elated to discover that Sally Hawkins has a brief cameo in this (Richard Ayoade’s IT Crowd costar Chris O’Dowd I’d clocked back in 2014). Wallace Shawn and Mia Wasikowska are both as terrific as you’d expect, but the masterstroke is Jesse Eisenberg, impeccably cast to play the extremity of his two poles against each other. Because there are two types of Jesse Eisenberg characters: the hapless awkward doormat, or the smug superior sociopath. And here he gets to be both, at each other.

There is a stretch maybe midway through this where I wonder if it’s a touch too maddening and punishing for me to keep watching someone so thoroughly caught in a hopeless trap. But then as the movie turns the screws tighter and things spring out a bit more vicious and outrageous, some of the wheels skipping tracks and knocking into each other, the score vaulting—I’m on the bitter edge of my seat.

★★★½

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