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dir Richard Ayoade
scr Richard Ayoade, Avi Korine
prd Amina Dasmal, Robin C Fox
with Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Yasmin Paige, Wallace Shawn, Phyllis Somerville, Noah Taylor, Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine, Craig Roberts, Chris O'Dowd, Cathy Moriarty, James Fox, Rade Serbedzija
release UK 4.Apr.14, US 9.May.14
13/UK Film 4 1h33
I'll be watching you: Eisenberg and Wasikowska
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Dostoevsky's novella is adapted into a Gilliam-style black comedy that's packed with visual invention but never quite grabs hold narratively. Still, the actors are so good that we willingly travel with them on a surreal odyssey about a young man struggling to make sense of his own identity. And the surprise-packed cast is a lot of fun.
Even after seven years on the job, no one knows quietly dedicated employee Simon (Eisenberg). He's smitten by the copy girl Hannah (Wasikowska), whom he watches at night through a telescope after rummaging through her trash. At work, he's assigned to mentor the surly teen Melanie (Paige), daughter of his creepy manager (Shawn). Then James (also Eisenberg) joins the firm, and no one seems to realise that he's a mirror copy. And unlike the invisible Simon, everyone notices the confident, fun-loving, unpredictable James.
The film's derivative design is a riot of exaggerated urban angst and careful colour placement, as Simon's Kafkaesque workplace forces him into a tiny cubicle, surrounding him with overeager security and portraits of his boss while mechanical technology clanks in the background. This witty and darkly entertaining approach gives us plenty to watch, including Considine's Doctor Who-like TV series, Roberts' inexperienced cop, Taylor's IT nerd and the hilarious Hawkins as a workmate. Yes, everyone from Ayoade's last film Submarine is on board.
Ayoade directs the film with considerable skill, cleverly using seamless effects to double Eisenberg, who delivers terrific performances as the lonely, yearning Simon and his polar opposite James, the man he wishes he could be. So when James coaches Simon about dating Hannah, it's James who of course leaves with her. And as the story escalates, their actions begin to merge and shift, playing up the dreamlike vibe.
All of this is presented as a deliberately nutty alternative-reality comedy-thriller. Scenes are packed with sharp humour as surprising emotions emerge from the generally murkiness. And the starry supporting cast keeps us on our toes. But everything is so mannered and quirky that the story never feels real enough to resonate. So it's difficult to care whether James is stealing Simon's life or a figment of Simon's numbed imagination.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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