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Film / The Double

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"I don't want to be a wooden boy, held up by strings."

The Double is a 2013 Kafka Comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska, loosely based on a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky of the same name. Directed by Richard Ayoade, it focus on the life of Simon James (Eisenberg), a shy, unconfident man. Despite being a good worker for seven years, he's so forgettable that his boss still calls him Stanley. He has a crush on coworker Hannah (Wasikowska), who is barely aware of his existence.

Simon's life is shaken up by the arrival of a new worker, James Simon (Eisenberg), a confident and charismatic man who happens to be his exact double. James takes the office by storm, despite hardly knowing what the company does, and gains the attention of Hannah. At first Simon and James work together, but things soon fall apart, and Simon's life begins to spiral out of control.

A film with a similar premise, Enemy, was released the same year. It's not comedic, but more a paranoid mind-screwing thriller. This was based on another novel called The Double, by Portuguese author Jose Saramago.

The Double contains examples of:

  • The Ace: Socially, James is a complete dynamo. He's a bit book-dumb, but Simon still latches onto him early on because he's so successful when he's working with the same basic material (looks) as Simon.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Simon's boss, who he's worked for for seven years, still calls him “Stanley” because he's just so forgettable.
  • Alone in a Crowd: Hannah often feels this way. So does Simon. James pretends to by taking Simon's words when trying to woo Hannah.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: James, as it turns out. He quickly befriends Simon, but then takes advantage of him.
  • Black Comedy: It's a noir, absurd world, and it's very hard not to laugh at some of Simon's misfortune.
  • Blackmail: James slept with Mr. Papadopoulos' daughter, and took photos. As he looks identical to Simon, he uses them to blackmail him.
  • Born Unlucky: Simon. Not only are the majority of characters rude to him for no reason, but even the machines seem to hate him. He is, after all, The Chew Toy.
  • Call-Back: Simon and James share a little wave at the end, like the one shared by Simon and the jumper.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Simon gently kicks an elevator out of frustration. It sets off an alarm and he gets written up. James does the same and the elevator starts working.
  • The Casanova: James probably sleeps with half the women in the movie.
  • The Charmer: James. He wins people over quite effortlessly.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The knife that Simon's mother's roommate gives him comes back later when James uses it to slash at Simon.
  • The Chew Toy: Before the movie, Simon is abused by pretty much everyone around him, his office treats him like dirt, and the girl who he likes barely knows he exists. It gets worse over the course of the movie as James actively makes him looks bad, takes the girl he likes gets him fired, and his mother dies.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Simon, of all people, starts swearing when James turns everyone at the office against him.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: At the end of the movie, it looks like Simon is going to steal James' life.
  • Deliberate Injury Gambit: After realising that he and James share injuries, Simon jumps off the apartment building in a way that he should survive, provided he gets to the hospital soon. He called the ambulance for himself before he jumped, but no one's going to find James for a long time.
  • Dirty Coward: James. He's incredibly selfish and climbs ranks using trickery and blackmail, not caring what it does to Simon, and when Simon physically threatens him at his mother's funeral, he tries to hide behind whatever girl he brought with him rather than face Simon head-on.
  • Doppelgänger: The premise of the film; Simon and James look exactly identical. It's never explained why this is, but as they share their injuries, there's presumably something supernatural at work.
  • Driven to Suicide: James drives both Hannah and Simon to this.
  • Evil Twin: James steals Simon's work and destroys his life by framing him.
  • Foil: Simon and James are pretty much polar opposites in every way, which in turn makes the difference more obvious.
  • Follow the Leader: The film owes a heavy debt to Brazil, another darkly comic story of a menial wage-slave pining for a girl in a dystopic world of bureaucracy and out-dated technology run amok.
  • Foreshadowing: The scene with the jumper and the cops near the start foreshadows Simon's plan at the end.
  • Gainax Ending: The Colonel somehow arrives in Simon's ambulance and compliments him. This is apparently the hallucination of the critically injured Simon.
  • Incompetence, Inc.: Just about everyone in the film is incompetent at their job.
    • Simon's company is staffed with horribly incompetent people, is wildly inefficient, and doesn't seem to do anything. It's rather telling that James becomes successful when he literally doesn't know what the company does, while Simon is constantly abused.
    • The retirement home where Simon's mother stays is run by a single, slack-jawed man who carries a gun for some reason. When he calls Simon to inform him of his mother's death, he has trouble pronouncing the word "cerebral."
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: The Chinese restaurant blares Japanese music.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Simon is about to jump out of a window, when he notices that Hannah has attempted suicide and rushes to save her. She's not grateful for his success.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: A policeman tells Simon that if a jumper had broken his fall on an awning, he'd have been in good enough shape to survive with immediate medical attention. Simon uses this very precise information in the end of the film.
  • No Social Skills: Simon's incredibly timid and has trouble speaking to other people at all. This is to contrast with James, who is great with social situations and getting people to like him.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Quite a few of them in Simon's workplace:
    • The security guard. He makes Simon fill out a form to get into work every single day, and won't let Simon in until he shows him the form the guard just watched him fill out.
    • Simon is missing from the office computer system, and is told that he does not exist as a result. To get back into the system, he needs a worker card, which he can't get without being in the system.
  • Only Sane Man: The similarity between Simon and James is commented upon precisely once by other characters, and only after severe prodding by Simon.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Mia's slips here and there, such as when she says the word "stalking."
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: Found throughout the film. It's more obvious in some scenes than others, such as the ones in the photocopy room, where the lighting is exclusively blue and orange.
  • Playing Cyrano: Subverted. When Simon goes on a date with Hannah, he just sits there saying nothing. It turns out that James is hiding in the bathroom telling Simon what to say through a radio, but Simon protests that he can't think straight with James yelling in his ear.
  • Popular Is Dumb: James is great with people, but not so much with the book smarts. He doesn't even know what the company does.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Simon/James' boss is fairly incompetent and a Horrible Judge of Character.
  • Racial Face Blindness: When it's pointed out that James and Simon are identical, Simon's coworker says that they're not even Chinese.
  • Red Baron: Simon's company is apparently owned by "the Colonel," who is treated like a hero. He even signs his autograph as "The Colonel."
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Simon is shy and reserved, while James gets into fights and, as mentioned above, probably sleeps with half of the women in the movie.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Simon goes out of his way to talk to Hannah at work, follows her as she goes home, and has a telescope pointed at her apartment.
  • Stylistic Suck: Everything seen on television is humorously crude.
  • Synchronization: After Simon punches James, he discovers that they have some sort of connection that causes them to share injuries. Simon then uses this link to kill James by jumping off a roof while James is handcuffed to a bed so he will receive life saving medical attention while James won't be found in time.
  • Those Two Guys: The two officers who deal with all the suicides in the area.
  • Twin Switch: Simon and James switch places multiple times on a date with Hannah.
  • Vast Bureaucracy: The company James and Simon work for is run by extremely inefficient bureaucracy.
  • Weasel Co-Worker: James doesn't know or care what the company does, but is a massive success due to his charisma. Simon is persuaded to take his aptitude test and do most of his work for him. When James' can't persuade Simon anymore, he simply blackmails him.
  • Weird World, Weird Food: Simon is served a mysterious blue liquid rather than the beverage that he ordered. He's seen with a glass of it again later, presumably due to the same error.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: It's never clear where the story is taking place. Most characters have American accents, but some characters have British or Irish accents. In one scene, Simon places a Japanese coin into a jukebox and plays a Japanese pop song, while another scene features a lounge band playing a song referencing Iwo Jima.