Jesse Eisenberg in The Double.

Director Richard Ayoade pays nice visual homage to the likes of David Lynch and Terry Gilliam with The Double, an adaptation of the 1846 novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Simon, an employee at a bleak office (that reminds of Gilliam’s Brazil) where he is unnoticed by co-workers, and hapless in his pursuit of Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), who works in the copy room. When his exact double—a new employee named James—shows up, he’s everything Simon wants to be: brash, confident and great with the ladies. James mentors Simon for a while, but things go bad quickly.

Eisenberg is given the task of creating two genuinely different personalities that look exactly alike, even down to their bland choice of tan clothing. He isn’t even given the benefit of a pencil mustache or a top hat for the evil twin. However, he accomplishes the feat, mainly in the cadence of his voice: James rolls off sentences with no hesitations, while Simon is prone to stammering.

Wasikowska, who can be rather drab, is good here, as she was in some of her better efforts like Stoker and The Kids Are All Right.

The Double stands as proof that Ayoade (perhaps best known to American audiences as the horny British fellow in The Watch) is a formidable director; he develops a distinct vision even when he’s taking bits and pieces from other directors. He doesn’t have a follow-up to this on his slate as of yet; I hope that changes soon. It also stands as proof that Eisenberg being cast as Lex Luthor in Batman vs. Superman might wind up being a very cool move.

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