The Double

Dostoyevsky’s novella becomes a black comedy with Jesse Eisenberg as a timid office drone taunted by his cocky lookalike. That makes three doppelgänger films in as many months, which probably says something about how virtual life has left us feeling fractured and restless. And although it arrives on the heels of The Face of Love and Enemy, director Richard Ayoade’s precocious scheme, co-written with Avi Korine, has the extra resonance that comes from being a showpiece for the actor who also played the founder of Facebook. Designed to resemble a dim-view future as imagined by a deeply bureaucratic past, this movie is visually stylized to within an inch of its life, but there’s unity between its people and machinery (Wallace Shawn is almost too-perfectly cast as a blockhead boss), and brilliance in the characterization of Eisenberg’s meek functionary: so totally a nonentity that he faints at the appearance of his double, whereupon nobody else in the office even really registers the resemblance. Then the girl he likes, played by Mia Wasikowska, gives him the time of day only to get an introduction to his better version. Ever brisk and intricately wry, The Double is less a gut-punch than a head-swirl — whereby Ayoade, the star of The IT Crowd who also was the funniest presence in The Watch and directed Submarine, puts his Cambridge Footlights training to good long-game use.