December 10, 2016

Oscars®: Will either of the movies about doppelgangers be up the Academy’s alley?

Jake Gyllenhaal Enemy 600x347

Today, a small movie called Enemy opened in limited release, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and, well…Jake Gyllenhaal. In May, another small flick called The Double comes out, and that one stars Jesse Eisenberg alongside, you guessed it…Jesse Eisenberg. 2014 seems to be the year of the doppelganger, in addition to biblical epics as I mentioned a week or so ago. These are acting showcases through and through, so could Oscar bite for one or both of them? Honestly, I think they’re both too offbeat and weird for Academy attention, so instead of doing specific preview pieces on them and just going through the motions of talking about a likely to be ignored pair of films, I wanted to sort of discuss both of them a bit here in this sort of an article. These could be independent contenders for other awards, so it’s important to give the pair a moment in the sun here, if nothing else.

First up we have Enemy, which is partially notable for being the other movie that Gyllenhaal shot with his Prisoners director Denis Villenueve (and actually was filmed first, though it’s coming out this year as opposed to last…both played festivals around the same time however). Written by Javier Gullón and costarring Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon, this is a very dreamlike and Kafka-esque (you’ll understand why if you see it) look at identity. Gyllenhaal plays a teacher who sees a doppelganger of his when watching a movie and set out to meet the man. Things obviously don’t go as intended. This is a psychosexual thriller of sorts and about as far from mainstream as it gets. That being said, it’s impeccably made by Villenueve and expertly acted, so an open minded audience member or Oscar voter could find something to like here, particularly in terms of Gyllenhaal’s performance(s).

Now we come to The Double, which is co-written (along with Avi Korine) and directed by Richard Ayoade. Eisenberg costars here with Sally Hawkins, Wallace Shawn, Mia Wasikowska, Chris O’Dowd, and Noah Taylor, to name a few. This is a pitch black comedy about a meek office drone driven mad by the appearance of a smooth talking doppelganger who at first seems interested in helping him before attempting to take over his life. This is very much a dark comedy that almost seems uninterested in laughs, so that immediately will turn off some voters, but Eisenberg has rarely been better and Ayoade shows some great versatility here. I have a hunch that a group like the Independent Spirit Awards might find a lot to dig about this one.

Both of these movies have tremendous lead performances, but both definitely hold the viewer at arm’s length, so I’d be shocked if members of the Academy saw much to like here. Both Eisenberg and Gyllenhaal will likely see some sort of recognition during the precursor season from the more independent minded groups, but if I had to guess, Oscar will almost certainly stay away. That being said, both are well worth seeing, and Enemy is in art houses now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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