Copyright © 2014 by Magnolia Pictures
The existence of Simon (Jesse Eisenberg) goes unnoticed both personally and professionally. He is disrespected by his colleagues and superior (Wallace Shawn), loathed by his mother (Phyllis Somerville) and the woman he loves, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska) is oblivious to such intentions. When newly employed James who bears an exact semblance to Simon begins arrogating Simon’s life through his confidence and manipulation, this shy outsider will now need to stand up for himself and reclaim his stolen identity.
I must admit that going into this piece of adaptation from literary artiste Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I have set certain expectations of where Richard Ayoade’s interpretation will take the viewer on his examination of a brilliant mind whose incompetence to human contact is bizarre yet make for a fascinating watch. The verdict after completion is still a riveting look on the extremities one would take to be noticed but the ambiguity in its resolution is a little perplexing and leaves a lot of room for discussion.
Supposed that is the whole point; it is fodder for long and introspective conversations not meant to provide any definitive explanation rather as an outlet to bask in the merits of a thorough observation on an isolated and scorned individual. On that matter alone is almost worth the price of admission. The writing is crisp and the portrayal of said loner versus his doppelganger is both disturbing and charismatic, played out by the multi talented Eisenberg.
The entire character study is anchored solely by Eisenberg in a duality so unique from one to another, you would think that they are from two different actors who happen to share one common mug. The interactions between himself are far more lively than the insipid love story which comes off unrequited. Not much light is shed on the girl that Simon is pining for – she is not particularly a conventional beauty or even the life of the party, so why all that admiration?
It is not because Wasikowska or Shawn are incapable of emoting the proper responses, they are just not given much to do here in their limited screen time (more so for Shawn). They are fittingly reduced as support for ‘The Social Network’ star to stamp his mark on a trade he has been refining since his breakthrough in ‘Roger Dodger’. He seems faintly uncomfortable at first restraining Simon’s mousy loser but as he is pushed further to the edge, the pain and anguish gets translated more coherently.
He is positively at ease most when he is able to let loose as the smooth operator, James. There is no withholding Eisenberg for his customary fast-talking and intelligent repartee to emerge as the only redeeming qualities of a lying bully. Even with such momentum, he can still sometimes be derailed from the distracting and oddly loud score courtesy of Andrew Hewitt. It is a minor gripe if what you are seeking for is a noir-esque tale with touches of Terry Gilliam and David Lynch thrown in for good measure.
Rated R for language