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 facsimiled in this second film from ‘Submarine’ director Richard Ayoade. ‘The Double’ is itself an adaptation of a Dostoyevsky story. In this version likeable 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, alienation 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 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 James Fox, Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine) give imaginative, smart performances.