After his acclaimed drama Submarine, actor-turned-filmmaker Richard Ayoade applies his considerable visual skills to this striking blackly comical adaptation of Dostoevsky's novella. Bristling with wit and snappy details, the film's style overwhelms its emotional core, leaving us unable to feel the punch of this odyssey about a young man wrestling with his own identity.
Jesse Eisenberg stars as Simon, a loner who's still anonymous at work after seven years in his desk job. Secretly in love with the copy girl Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), he watches her through a telescope from his flat and digs through her rubbish. Then just as he's assigned to mentor the surly teen daughter (Yasmin Paige) of his manager (Wallace Shawn), James meets new employee Simon (also Eisenberg), a mirror image of himself who is far more confident, fun-loving and, yes, popular with everyone in the office.
Ayoade designs the film like a drab variation on Terry Gilliam's Brazil (and more recently The Zero Theorem), with that same claustrophobic sense of overcrowded anonymity and Kaflaesque bureaucracy. It's not particularly original, but it is fun to watch, especially on a big screen where we can take in the detailed sets and costumes, as well as a steady procession of amusing cameos from the likes of Chris O'Dowd and Submarine stars Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine, Noah Taylor and Craig Roberts. All of this adds to the general chaos of Simon's life, as well as his deep urban angst. But we're too distracted to properly sympathise with him.
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Simon is a timid, uncharismatic and largely forgettable man who doesn't seem to be getting anywhere in life. He is rarely acknowledge at work and is a stranger to all his colleagues, his mother is disappointed in his lacklustre life and to top it all off, the woman he loves, Hannah, remains firmly indifferent to his existence. With his future hanging in the balance as he fails to make an impression on anybody, his life is further thrust into oblivion with the arrival of his doppelganger and complete opposite, James - who is newly employed at Simon's work. Unlike Simon, James captivates everyone he meets and is destined for success - even Hannah has his attention as he rapidly takes over Simon's life. With everybody else totally ignorant of the creepy resemblance, Simon is forced to snatch his life back by any means possible.
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Simon is one of those sorts of people who can never seem to make an impression on anybody. His work colleagues barely know his name, his love interest Hannah remains stoically uninterested and his mother is unsupportive and, quite frankly, thinks he's rather strange. Already in danger of letting his life slowly slip from his grasp, things start to get dark when a new employee joins Simon at work. James is the spitting image of Simon in every way from the hair and clothes to the voice and smile; however, the very obvious difference is that James is brimming with confidence with a magnetic charisma that charms everyone he meets. Simon appears to be the only person who notices his resemblance - a frustrating prospect when Hannah starts to become extremely interested in James. Simon simply can't let this imposter infiltrate his world - but just how far will he go to stop him?
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Simon is already running the risk of seeing his life crash and burn around him, with his reticent personality forcing away any love interests (or even friends), attracting much disappointment from his mother and losing him support in his career, but things are about to go further downhill very soon. A new employee named James has taken up a position at his workplace but, to Simon's horror, he looks and sounds identical to him - only with a more extroverted disposition and captivating character. Simon's too afraid to try and change things in his life, feeling comfortable (if a little depressed) with remaining in the shadows, but when James starts to take over everything he holds most dear, he is forced to try. But can he battle his demons while remaining sane at the same time?
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Being diffident, introverted and generally awkward in social situations, Simon finds his life increasingly difficult as he feels unappreciated in his work life, disparaged by his disappointed mother and rejected by his only love interest. Unable to find the courage to turn his life around, things are about to get much, much worse as a new employee at his company named James shows up. James is Simon's ultimate doppelganger, and his appearance only serves to make Simon increasingly more nervous as, although they are identical in looks, they are total opposites in personalities with James possessing a much more confident and magnetic character. Gradually, James starts to infiltrate Simon's life, taking over everything he holds most dear with Simon being driven completely insane in the process.
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Oliver (Roberts) is a fairly typical teen who hasn't quite figured out who he is meant to be. While waiting to discover what his "thing" is, he falls for Jordana (Paige), a girl who's far cooler than he is. And he can't believe his luck when they start developing a relationship. But at the same time, he realises that his parents (Hawkins and Taylor) seem to be falling apart, as his mother is spending a little too much time with a hippie-ninja neighbour (Considine) who happens to be her ex.
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15 year old Oliver sees himself as something of a cool child prodigy, when in fact, he might be smart but he's also a loner. Oliver's mother Jill is thinking of leaving her husband for a new age mystic called Graham as her relationship grows closer to him day by day whilst his father seems to be falling into a deeper depression.
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