A few years ago Richard Ayoade, best known from The IT Crowd but should be known from Garth Meranghi's Darkplace, gave us an adaptation as a directorial debut, and Submarine was dark, funny in a multitude of ways, smart, well made yet with a humble, home-made edge. As a director, Ayoade returns with The Double, a darker piece about Jesse Eisenberg's Simon James, an unbelievably wet protagonist in a non-world full of 60's and 70's tech and costumes, and little else. Simon is a mess, timid, shy, in his own world, and only finding brief respite in contacting the copy girl Mia Wasikowska. The one day a new employee shows up, James Simon, who is the exact opposite of Simon, only with the same body and face.
That moment, however, happens almost 40 minutes in, leaving us with an act one that consists of Jesse Eisenberg being quiet, sometimes awkward, and staring. Just...staring. Despite attempts by cast such as Tim Key, Chiris O'Dowd and even Chris Morris, the film never finds the comedy it wants to, even when the film goes very very broad, because the tone is forever dark, miserable, depressing and intense. In a way it carries the same problem as Sightseers, except The Double is undeniably heavier, the characters much worse to watch and the pace just a slog. Eisenberg's wet character is an utterly wretched lead, heightened awkwardness for plot means that when there's not a conflict it's infuriating and when there is conflict it's the easiest conflicts possible, writing in this case is low rent and dull.
The Double is a real shame, and an utter mess, it wants to be a weird psychological thriller but it keeps going for the jokes as it becomes too scared to head deep into the serious territory, and thus it loses both elements to become something that is just awful. It's never charmingly home-grown or inventive in any interesting directions, misuses a great cast, including an absolutely wasted Wallace Shawn, and leaves you feeling like you wasted 90 minutes. The Double is the anti-Submarine, and that's not a good thing by any stretch, for a sophomore slump, Ayoade has dipped really low.