'Double': Double Toil And Trouble For Eisenberg Jesse Eisenberg gives an acting master-class as a nebbishy office worker and his mysterious doppelganger in the dark, surreal new film The Double, based on a short story by Dostoevsky.
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'Double': Double Toil And Trouble For Eisenberg

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'Double': Double Toil And Trouble For Eisenberg

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'Double': Double Toil And Trouble For Eisenberg

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

In the movie "The Social Network," Jesse Eisenberg invented Facebook. In "Now You See Me," he mastered magic tricks. He learned to fly in "Rio." But our critic, Bob Mondello, says none of those films asked half as much of the actor as the one that opens today. It's called "The Double." And Bob says it requires Jesse Eisenberg to meet himself coming and going.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Simon James is a milquetoast of a man, so meek and mild he goes through life unnoticed. That's not a figure of speech. Seriously, people don't notice Simon James - not his boss, who sees him as an office drone...

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MONDELLO: Not the entry guard at work who demands his ID every morning.

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MONDELLO: And his co-workers or his neighbors or the copy machine woman he has a crush on who's never learned his name.

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MONDELLO: Simon James simply makes no impression on people. Then one day, this guy shows up...

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MONDELLO: ...who is somehow more visible than Simon James.

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MONDELLO: And the problem is, he looks exactly like Simon James. Not a little - exactly. But much to Simon's distress, nobody seems to notice that either.

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MONDELLO: Director Richard Ayoade is a comedian as well as a filmmaker, something you'll sense in the zip and timing that he gives the film's dialogue. Say, this encounter between Simon and the woman who can't remember his name.

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MONDELLO: But "The Double" isn't funny, exactly. Ayoade's made it weird and dark and retro with clanking, groaning machines and people who are cogs in a bigger machine. This is not new territory, exactly - the story's based on Dostoevsky, plays like Kafka, and looks like an Orwellian nightmare. But Ayoade makes it feel freshly minted, while Jesse Eisenberg offers, with his nebbishy Simon and his cocksure James, what amounts to an acting master-class, even when all he's doing is sitting across the table from himself in a diner.

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MONDELLO: The waitress turns to James, whose approach is more forceful.

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MONDELLO: Simon is in awe.

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MONDELLO: He'll come out of his shell, as his double's behavior veers into double-dealing and double-crosses, landing Simon in an existential hell that'll be familiar to fans of Russian literature, but that in a film at the multiplex, especially in blockbuster season, is as dark and as dazzling as it is rare. Which, of course, makes "The Double" doubly welcome. I'm Bob Mondello.

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