(director/writer: Richard Ayoade; screenwriters: novella by Fyodor Dostoevsky/story by Avi Korine/Avi Korine; cinematographer: Erik Alexander Wilson; editors: Nick Fenton/Chris Dickens; music: Andrew Hewitt; cast: Jesse Eisenberg (Simon/James), Mia Wasikowska (Hannah), Wallace Shawn (Mr. Papadopoulos), Yasmin Paige (Melanie, the boss’s daughter), Phyllis Somerville (Mother), Noah Taylor (Harris), Yasmin Paige (Melanie), Cathy Moriarty (Kiki), J. Mascis (Janitor), Chris O’Dowd (Nurse), Christopher Morris (Workers’ Services Executive), Paddy Considine (‘The Replicator’ – Jack), James Fox (the Colonel); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Robin C. Fox/Amina Dasmal; Magnolia Pictures; 2013)

“Bleak dark comedy about contemporary urban alienation.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

UK-based filmmaker, comedian, actor and video director Richard Ayoade(“Submarine”), directs with verve this bleak dark comedy about contemporary urban alienation. It’s loosely based on a Feodor Dostoyevsky early novella, in 1864.

Nondescript loser clerk Simon (Jesse Eisenberg) worksunrecognized in a tiny office cubicle at a drab data-processing building, a place Kafka would be familiar with. The meek Simon suffers from daily humiliations as he’s scorned by his mother (Phyllis Somerville) and ignored by both his boss, Mr. Papadopoulos (Wallace Shawn), and an attractive coworker, someone he romantically dreams about, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). James (also played by Eisenberg), who looks exactly like Simon but has an opposite personality, gets hired and the newcomer immediately becomes the firm’s favorite. Simon gets the ladies man James to mentor him on how to be more outgoing and a winner, but the lessons fail.

The pic plays out as an allegory. Its storyline staleness is fought off by curious cameos from a number of stars, that include Sally Hawkins as an annoying bureaucratic functionary, Chris O’Dowd as a creepy nurse, the musician J. Mascis as a janitor, James Fox as the ominous Big Brother figure known as The Colonel and British satirist Christopher Morris as a Workers’ Services Executive.

Eisenberg is up to the task of convincingly pulling off the dual role. The pic is well-crafted. It also does a fine job capturing bureaucratic tedium. In fact, things go well until the misplaced final act leaves everything muddled. But even if I’m not too excited about it entirely, I still found it decent overall.