Is Jesse Eisenberg not the perfect Dostoyevskian hero? The actor is best known to portray nerdy types, all the more awkward due to an inflamed neurosis and thus armed with a whole lot of snark. It is this hidden well of arrogance that separates the soft-spoken actor from his equally pasty Hollywood double Michael Cera (the two are often confused by casual moviegoers) and lends credibility to Golyadnik Sr. and Jr., here known as Simon James and James Simon. But Eisenberg with his shifty glances could just as easily portray Raskolnikov or the Underground Man.
In Richard Ayoade’s theatrical adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s novella, all the world is a stage for this lowly office-worker enslaved to a cold metal cubicle, who never gets the girl (Mia Wasikowska), loses the promotion, and the sting of the scorn grows more pronounced with the arrival of a new employee with an inverted name and personality, attached to an identical visage. It’s fun to see Simon/Eisenberg go screwy, as James/Eisenberg commandeers his life in a retro-futuristic nowhere, which Ayoade exploits with bulky box TVs, pixelated videogames, Japanese 50s pop, and other details. While appropriately darkly-humored and self-assured, The Double suffers from overstylization. Spotlights emit a harsh interrogating glow and the endless clanging, banging, and mechanical whirring of Lynchian dreams- or nightmares- will give you a headache, but regrettably in this case without the haunting hangover. Buried underneath the unneeded kitsch is an inventive, half-substantial movie. All in all a perfectly digestible 93 minutes though with an ending more happy than old Fyodor would have liked.