My Rating: 8/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 72%
PLOT: A humdrum history professor seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie.
IS IT ANY GOOD?
…it’s like a Twilight Zone episode written by David Lynch, and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. The best thing about it: it kept me guessing right up until the hair-raising, goosebump-inducing final image. The worst thing about it: TOO MANY QUESTIONS LEFT UNANSWERED.
A surreal opening sequence involving a high-roller peepshow and a live spider sets the tone for this mysterious mystery full of mysteries. The premise is immediately captivating, at least for me: what would you do if you spotted your double in a film you’re watching? Not just a very close look-alike, your EXACT double, your doppelganger. How would you react? What would you think? Long lost brother? Insane coincidence?
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam, the man who is watching a movie and unexpectedly sees himself in a movie he’s rented. He tracks the actor down, calls him up. The actor, Anthony, is skeptical. Adam’s nervousness about the whole endeavor doesn’t help his case any. Anthony eventually wants to meet. What would you SAY to your double? How would you act? It’s all extremely intriguing.
Director Villeneuve paints the screen with images in pallid browns and beiges. City skylines are seen against murky, muddy, cloudless skies. Adam’s entire wardrobe seems to consist of white shirts, brown pants, and a brown sportscoat. Not much of a spring man, apparently. There may be a reason for these color choices, there always is, but I’ll be jiggered if I can figure out what it is, aside from the effect it had of making everything feel…sludgy. To what end? No idea.
There are periodic shots or sequences recalling the peepshow from the opening sequence, and I’m not sure what THOSE are supposed to mean. It seems fairly obvious at first that it must have been Anthony, the actor, seen in the crowd at the beginning, even though we don’t know it yet. But, if that’s true, why is ADAM dreaming about it? Another weird touch: Anthony likes blueberries. Adam visits his mother, who tries to give him blueberries; he says he doesn’t like them, but his mother insists he does. A current of fear coils and slithers under the surface of this movie like a snake hiding under a rock, waiting for nightfall.
What’s going on here? Is Adam gaslighting HIMSELF? The movie is VERY cagey for a while, because the “Shyamalan” factor comes into play: what if they’re both the same person? For a while, the film never shows the two men together in the same shot, so the question hangs in the air. Even when we DO see them in the same shot, I found myself thinking: “Well, ‘Fight Club’ had them both in the same shot, and look what happened THERE.”
I won’t reveal the precise nature of what’s going on, because, at this point, I’m still not sure I understand it all myself. I can say that it kept me interested the whole way through, but it didn’t answer questions I really, REALLY wanted answers to. (No, I don’t require that all movies answer every question. The reason I love movies like “Prometheus” and “Under the Skin” is specifically BECAUSE a lot goes unanswered. But this one left me wanting more.)
And then there’s that last, completely out-of-left-field, borderline repellent final shot. What the HELL does it mean? Do these two men share a common psyche, separated only by physical distance? Is it intended ONLY to shock, with no real meaning? It worked on the level of shock, but upon reflection, I still can’t fathom its meaning.
So. If you Netflix this movie, give it a whirl. You’ll be captivated. You’ll be intrigued. It works on that level EXTREMELY well. Just don’t expect everything to be wrapped up in a nice bundle. This movie is designed to be discussed and debated afterwards.