Having LOVED Richard Ayoade’s Submarine, this was one of the first tickets I had on my list at LFF last year. Man, was I disappointed. Even though The Double has a cast to die for, some impressive production design and a few darkly funny moments, I just couldn’t warm to it at all. It does look great, kind of like the future got stuck in a time warp in 1970s Belgium where everything has been painted by someone with a diarrhoea fetish.
Loosely based on a Dostoevsky story, The Double starts well enough, Jesse Eisenberg is an endearing lead and it’s quite fun to watch him try to wrangle James, the super cool new bloke at work, who turns out to be, well him. Frustratingly, nobody else seems to realise this and his colleagues treat James like the prodigal son – he’s much better at everything than Simon, in fact, he’s everything that Simon wishes he was, including a hit with the women. An uneasy friendship begins between the two which soon includes the object of Simon’s unrequited love, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). Trouble is, the plot from here on is a bit thin, interrupted only by a string of distracting cameos and it all felt a bit tedious.
It does pain me a bit not to be raving about this, I genuinely believe Ayoade has real talent as a director, and he’s also a very nice man – but The Double feels so chock full of homages it’s as if he was worried he might never make another film so bunged all his influences (and friends) into this one. But to be fair if your influences include Gilliam and early David Lynch then you might well enjoy this one a lot more than I did. I’d quite like to have seen more of Paddy Considine’s tv show, mind you.
Aside from Mystery Train, and Ghost Dog, I always feel I should enjoy Jim Jarmusch’s films more. He knows how to put super-cool on film, and he can create a mood effortlessly, but frankly I like a bit more of a story. Only Lovers Left Alive is no exception, although it’s probably his best for a while. It’s also all the L-words you can think of: louche, languid, listless, lyrical… and slightly long.
It’s the story of Adam and Eve, two vampires who got married centuries ago and are finding the being around forever aspect of vampiring a bit wearying. They are quite bored of each other but still somehow madly in love. Tilda Swinton’s Eve is hanging out in Tangier, exquisitely dressed and gliding through the streets at night like an exotic spectre while being brought top notch blood by Kit Marlow (John Hurt). Tom Hiddleston’s Adam, on the other hand, looks like he hasn’t had a bath for a while and is utterly fed up with the state of the world and particularly repelled by the ‘zombies’ as he refers to the unfortunate living people he is forced to hang around with. I suppose if you’d spent your life chewing the fat with Byron and writing symphonies for Schubert you might find the average Joe a bit less than cultured too. He fills his lonely hours roaming round a crumbling Detroit mansion filled with expensive guitars and vinyl, ever the rock star, and fretting about what will become of the things he loves in a world hell-bent on destruction.
Eve flies to Detroit to lift Adam from his despair, and the pair spend their nights driving round this beautifully desolate city – the images of downtown Detroit are nothing short of stunning – and deep in conversation about their past. It takes the arrival of Mia Wasikowska as Adam’s sister Ava to liven things up – she prefers to drink blood fresh from the source (oopsy) which causes a spot of bother. She disappears too soon, sadly.
Only Lovers Left Alive is beautiful to look at, easily has the two hippest vampires ever seen on screen – and it’s very funny. But to be honest, the ten minutes of Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best! that I missed to get to this screening on time weighed heavy on me.