Jesse Eisenberg’s office drone, Simon, faced with the sudden appearance of his super cocky mirror image, James (also Eisenberg), isn’t the only thing being copied in this second film from Submarine’s Richard Ayoade. The Double is itself an adaptation of a Dostoyevsky story; in this version, likable loser Simon works in a retro-futuristic bureaucratic machine that looks like a crumbling Soviet-era hospital. Ayoade tips his hat to so many other filmmakers and writers that he leaves little room to consider anything other than what a good job he’s doing of distilling all his references into an effective Pinterest board of paranoia and alienation.
Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is the obvious allusion, but you can also tick off Franz Kafka, George Orwell, even Orson Welles and David Lynch. This heavy helping of outside influences isn’t a huge problem; it’s the overfamiliarity of ideas relating to loneliness, estrangement and men in crisis (Mia Wasikowska plays a thankless romantic foil) that’s the issue. Where Ayoade succeeds is in keeping a lid on the potential zaniness and maintaining a gloomy but energetic air of fragility and desperation. It helps that Eisenberg and a host of top-notch side players (including Wallace Shawn, Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine) give imaginative, smart performances.