MSPIFF14 Reviews: The Double & The Last of Robin Hood

MSPIFF_Reviews

Review by Josh P.

The-Double-PosterThe Double follows Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg, who plays against type and is award-worthy superb), a meek man unrecognizable to his co-workers, one of whom is the girl of his dreams, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska, terrific). Early in the film, Simon’s bleak life takes two unhappy turns. First, he witnesses a suicide, and then his doppelgänger, James Simon (also Eisenberg, this time playing to type), begins working at the same company, doing a similar job. James is more likable and confident than Simon, meaning he is more successful, despite being less qualified. 

Writer/director Richard Ayoade’s film isn’t exactly scary, and might not even qualify as creepy. Nor is it commonly laugh out loud funny or emotionally impacting. Plus, it is at least somewhat derivative, obviously resembling Brazil (1985), amongst other movies. At times, as when Simon says things like, ‘But I used to exist. I mean I exist. I’m standing right here,’ it is even reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s best work. By rights, then, The Double, should fail to register, should fade from memory, should be just another conceptually interesting science fiction movie unable to maximize its potential. 

The-Double-Simon_James

Thankfully, it is more than that, owing mostly to Ayoade’s fantastic production design. The film’s thematic and narrative content is dark, and so is The Double’s color palette. Here we see mostly browns and grays, with some whites mixed in; the retro computers; the televisions; the characters’ costumes; interior and exterior doors; most walls; tables; desks; and so forth. Because much of the imagery is borderline dull, the few times we see bright color (consider James’ unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt), we know something significant will soon happen. Or, at the very least, that the image is meaningful to Simon.

The movie’s retro technology and set pieces are as effective as its color palette. From the box televisions, to the copy machines with dial controls, to the small screen computers, the technology helps solidify The Double’s setting and enhance its atmosphere. Its set pieces do the same: apartments are very small, and bigger rooms are mostly filled by complicated piping connected to aforementioned machines. Before long we begin to understand Simon’s world, to feel his claustrophobia and lack of entertainment, not to mention his social disconnectedness.

The-Double-Stills

Ayoade, in other words, effectively immerses us in Simon’s reality, thereby making us care about the character and causing dread when the protagonist’s life goes horribly wrong. It doesn’t matter, in other words, that the director keeps us at psychological and emotional distance from Simon. We empathize with the character anyway. 

Which is why The Double is thematically resonant and intellectually intriguing, the sort of movie that will keep viewers thinking, even days after seeing it. What does this picture say about an individuals’ place in society? About confidence? Identity? Relationships? And more? 

Thematic power is not The Double’s only strength. The cast is terrific. Moreover, the central characters are developed well, and Ayoade and co-writer Avi Korine’s dialogue is witty. Finally, the film is funny enough to always entertain. Simply put, The Double is very good.

4.5 out of 5 reels

JJamesReviews


The Last of Robin Hood

Review by Ruth M.

TheLastOfRobinHoodposterThough the title refers to the role Errol Flynn’s best known for, this film is more about his last girlfriend, Beverly Aadland. She was only 15 years old when the legendary swashbuckler and reputable lothario made his conquest. He saw her going into Warner Bros studios, looking much older than what she actually was in her form-fitting red dress. The wide-eyed teen starlet inevitably and immediately fell for the Australian actor, but she really didn’t have much choice in the matter, given Flynn’s persistence and her own mother practically pimping her in order to *assist* her career. I can’t remember if the film said something about Flynn still being married to Patrice Wymore, but I found that out after the film.

This is really a sad story, not to mention creepy. Kevin Kline who played Flynn was 67 and Dakota Fanning as Beverly was 19 when they made the film, so the age gap between them is even bigger (47 years apart as opposed to 33). But what’s even creepier is how Beverly’s mother Florence (Susan Sarandon) not only encouraged the affair, but also willingly became the third wheel as they travel together. Her own marriage crumbled as her husband vehemently disagreed with what Florence did to their own daughter, and sensibly, he didn’t think Beverly really had talents for showbiz anyway.

TheLastOfRobinHoodStills

And so, the 90-min film pretty much follow the three of them travel from L.A., New York, Africa, even Cuba where Flynn made a pro-Castro propaganda movie starring Beverly. It’s amusing to get a glimpse how Old Hollywood operated back then, well specifically, how a notorious Golden Age movie star lived. There’s a brief scene where Flynn tried to convince Stanley Kubrick (Max Casella) to cast her alongside him in Lolita. But they soon realize that the affair didn’t really do much for Beverly’s career. The film paints a devastating picture of the ruthless desire for fame and the price people pay to achieve it. It’s not an in-depth biopic, nor a particularly emotional one either, as I barely connect with any of the characters.

All three main characters are such tragic figures in their own right, though I don’t quite have an emotional connection with any of them. I feel for Beverly the most, yet she isn’t exactly blameless in all of this. Though it seemed that Flynn genuinely cared for her, their relationship wasn’t always smooth. It lasted for merely two years when the alcoholic Flynn died suddenly of a heart attack. Seemed that beneath the devil-may-care facade, even Flynn knew that death was looming.

ErrolFlynn_KevinKline
The real Erroll Flynn & Kline in the role

I feel like this story is perhaps more suited for a TV movie or something in terms of its production quality. I think the performances are good, both Kline and Fanning are pretty committed to the role, and Kline’s resemblance to the older Flynn is pretty uncanny. Sarandon plays the ruthless and fame-hungry Florence convincingly, up until the end she still sought attention when she spoke to the tabloid about the whole affair. Despite Beverly’s insistence that she dropped the book deal, her book was still published.

If you’re a big fan of Errol Flynn this should be an interesting movie to rent. Even if you aren’t [like me, as I haven’t seen any of his movies], surely you have heard of him. It’s a pretty stylish film by Richard GlatzerWash Westmoreland, I think they managed to capture the era quite well. Just don’t expect anything profound or poignant, it’s merely amusing for me, but falls short from being a truly engaging biopic.

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What do you think of these two films? 

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49 thoughts on “MSPIFF14 Reviews: The Double & The Last of Robin Hood

  1. Hugh fan of Flynn so I will be seeing this. Thanks for the review and insight. Robin Hood is my favorite but Flynn was great in most of his films. Timothy Dalton did a great impersonation in The Rocketeer.

    1. Hi Richard, it should be fun to watch if you’re a fan of Flynn though it doesn’t really give any insight to his character here. Yeah, I LOVE Dalton’s Neville Sinclair in Rocketeer, I’d think he’d be great as an older Flynn as well here.

  2. The Double is definitely one to watch out for on release by the looks of things. Ayoade’s previous film – Submarine – got similar early recognition but I was ultimately a bit disappointed by it. Hopefully this one will live up to expectation.

    Shame that The Last of Robin Hood isn’t quite as good. I love that title and I’m pleased to see Kevin Kline doing regular work again. He seemed to go missing for a few years.

    1. Hi Dan, I just think The Last of Robin Hood isn’t a very deep movie, nor did it make me care for any of the characters. I do like Kline and his comic timing is quite fun to watch as he impersonated Flynn.

    2. I haven’t seen Submarine yet, but my interest is piqued after seeing The Double. In this newer one, Ayoade shows a real knack for artistic filmmaking; it’s quite impressive.

      Amen on Kline. I’m looking forward to The Last of Robin Hood, as well.

  3. Ted S.

    The Double sounds interesting, I’m kind of had enough of Eisenberg after Now You See Me and his casting as Lux Luther didn’t sit well with me. I’ll give it a rent.

    As for The Last of Robin Hood movie, don’t think I have much interest in seeing that one. Never seen any of Flynn’s films so I don’t really care about his life.

    1. “I’m kind of had enough of Eisenberg after Now You See Me” Ahah, I feel the same way Ted! I’m never fond of him anyway though. As for The Last of Robin Hood, I don’t think it’s for you, esp if you never watch any of Flynn’s work.

    2. I totally understand going into Eisenberg malaise after the near-failure that was Now You See Me. But you’d be doing yourself a favor by seeing this one – he shows some real range, both comedic and dramatic. I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t wind up in my Top 10 performances of 2014 list. And, further, I’d be somewhat surprised if The Double doesn’t come close to hitting my Top Ten Films of the year list. It’s really good.

      I haven’t seen any of Flynn’s movies, either. I hope I like The Last of Robin Hood a bit more than Ruth did.

    1. Hello Adam, welcome to FC! The Double sounds like a more intriguing film based on Josh’s review but yeah, the story about Errol Flynn is still fun to watch to look at the bygone era. I think the filmmakers captured the era nicely.

    2. Hi, Adam. The Double is terrific. When you see it, I doubt you’ll be disappointed. I agree The Last of Robin Hood sounds worth a watch, even if it does have its share of flaws.

  4. Josh, great reviews–both films sound great! I love Kline and I think he’d be perfect as E. Flynn–I remember him portraying Cole Porter years back in “De-lovely” and was impressed. As far as “Double” goes, the cast looks great and the film seems to possess panache and cool cinematography. I really want to see it after hearing you gave it 4.5. Nice!

    1. Hello Cindy, thank you! I wrote the review for Last of Robin Hood btw, which I think you’d enjoy if you love Kline’s work. I don’t think the film delft too deep into Flynn’s life however, but still intriguing to watch I think if you’re familiar w/ the classic actor.

      1. OH, I’m sorry, Ruth. Must give credit where credit is due. I do love Kline, so I’m sure I would appreciate Last of Robin Hood despite it’s faults. Now that the festival is over, which one was your favorite?

        1. Ahah that’s ok! Josh’s a much better reviewer than me anyway 😀

          As far as my fave from the film fest, I’d say it’s The Grand Seduction because I just had so much fun watching that one. I do appreciate the two Binoche films tho, but not something I’d probably watch again.

          1. No, I’m not. I just have a different style. 🙂 (It’s also worth nothing that you’re a much better web designer than me, incidentally.)

            And you keep making me want to see The Grand Seduction. 🙂

    2. Hey, Cindy. Thanks. And The Double strikes me as your kind of film, assuming I’m reading your tastes properly (taking into account that you like Margaret Atwood’s novels – I’m near finished with The Year of the Flood, by the way – and other setting-intensive pieces, like Lawless). In The Double, the setting and atmosphere are palpable, which makes it pretty powerful stuff, even though Ayoade never truly immerses in his characters’ experiences.

      I don’t know Flynn, really, but Kline has a striking resemblance to him, doesn’t he?

      1. I agree. I will have to check ‘The Double’ out. BTW, I’m almost finished with the third and final installment, Maddaddam and I was annoyed with the over-heavy use of flashback, but it’s getting interesting enough and it’s becoming a page-turner. Don’t forget to try ‘The Wind-Up Girl’ I’d really be interested in knowing if you liked it or not. It feels like a film to me.

        1. My library doesn’t have an e-book edition of The Wind Up Girl. But I’ll figure out some way to read it.

          Hopefully I like Maddaddam just as much, if not more, than you. I agree that Year of the Flood is even better than the first one, though I think it has its own flaws.

  5. I ENVY YOU!! I love to see The Double too…but I am not sure it’ll be shown here 😦
    I had seen the interview with Ayoade and became very interested…and now your review makes me want to see it more. Lucky you

    1. I actually didn’t see it Nov, that was Josh’s review. I had a conflict with another film in that time slot. You can rent it later can’t you?

    1. Ruth’s review of The Last of Robin Hood disappoints me, too. I was looking forward to that one.

      And The Double. When you see it, you won’t be disappointed. It’s quite terrific.

  6. I’m not a big fan of Ayoade’s first film, but I can’t wait to see The Double. The Last of Robin Hood looks kind of interesting too.

    1. Hi Josh, I take it you’ve seen some of Errol Flynn’s movies? Then The Last of Robin Hood should be an interesting one for you.

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  8. I may be interested in The Double but I kind of fear the bleakness of it. I did not enjoy that aspect of Enemy or the film in general. From what I heard…this is quite similar. However, I do really like the actors and actresses in it so perhaps I will give it a go eventually!

    As for Robin Hood…damn! Truly a scary age difference! May or may not watch this one! The resemblance is spot on though!

    1. Ahah yeah, that’s what’s soooo creepy about Flynn’s story but he’s a creepy man to begin with! Nuts though that they got an even older actor to play him!

  9. Great coverage. I wasn’t taken in by the trailers for The Double and then happened to miss it when it was out over here, despite the good reviews – really wish I’d seen it now!

    The Errol Flynn movie sounds interesting but I always think it’s a shame when bio-pics shoot for entertainment rather than the meat of the story. When real historical figures are involved it seems to me there’s a duty to do justice to the material.

    1. Thanks Natalie! Yeah, that’s the thing, the film just didn’t have much depth so it was amusing (for better or worse) more on the surface alone.

    1. You’re so right Mikey! In a way Beverly is perhaps one of the *lucky* ones as Flynn seemed to actually care for her. Still, it’s downright creepy!

  10. Josh – The Double look so good! I want to see it! Such a weird concept but looks really cool and from what I read it sounds like you enjoyed it so I will have to check it out. The pictures almost remind me of film noir of the 50s.

    Ruth – The Robin Hood movies looks interesting, but like you said it could almost have been made for TV. Reminds me of the style of that Liz Taylor movie that was on Lifetime. Regardless it sounds like it would be a decent watch. The fact that she was so young is so creepy, I guess people didn’t care back then like Jerry Lee Lewis.

  11. Bariebel

    Hi Ruth M;
    You are writing a critique about “The Last of Robin Hood” and not a very favorable one.
    It would interest me extremely and I would say your readers and followers too of how you come to your information or conclusions to write a review when you NEVER saw the movie.
    With an action like that you treat your readers/followers very unfairly, one could say that you do not respect your public.
    How can your followers trust you when you are writing just hearsay and gossip?

    The movie is not shown anywhere yet and only very view people from the public have seen it, unless they were at the World Premier in Toronto TIFF in February 2013 and I was there and have seen the movie.
    Here is my review for your readers in order for them to get a fair impression.
    It is not a movie epic like “Gone with the Wind”, if you are thinking of seeing that then better don’t see it. But it is an excellent movie! The filmmakers and script writers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland couldn’t go on locations as they didn’t have a mega budget and had so many other restraints and difficulties to overcome. They are not Warner Brothers or Metro Goldwyn Mayer, they are a small movie company and on top of it they got very bad publicity because apparently they made some movies, which are not up to standards. Question is what are our standards? There are movies around made by the big companies with lots of money, with STAR actors, which make my hair stand up portraying all the crudeness possible.
    The Last of the Robin Hood is made very tastefully, with Oscar winning actors and a credit to the people involved. Kevin Kline (Oscar Winner) is portraying Errol Flynn fabulously, Susan Sarandon (Oscar Winner), gives just great performance of a stage struck mother. She saw the chance of her lifetime to reach through him and her daughter the fame and fortune she hungered and dreamed about all her life. Dakota Fanning played a very nice Beverly and gives a great performance as the teenager who never knew anything else but her mother’s ambitions.
    The story as written is much more life-like – sort of realistic as it really might have been in their days, then the sensationalistic write-ups and book of the past. It is very clear-sightedly done and I think to tackle this sensitive story was a very brave undertaking. It’s always so easy to be critical but actually doing it is an entire different cup of tea. Considering all the odds the directors and writers had to work with in dealing with an ever so sensitive issue they produced a great movie and I repeat a credit to Errol Flynn and Beverly Aadland.
    Please see the movie when you have chance and judge it for yourself.

    1. Bariebel – Please do research first before you made any kind of accusations. Why in the world would I ever waste my time and write a review of something I did not see?! This film was shown at MSPIFF (hence the header at top), here’s the schedule on the official website: http://mspfilm.org/films-and-events/the-last-of-robin-hood/?f=233

      So I DID see the film and this is what my *judgment* about the movie. I did not bash the film the way you made it sound like I did. 3/5 is a pretty fair rating based on what I saw, not bad but not great. That said, I still would recommend it to people if they’re intrigued by the subject matter, as you can see in my last paragraph.

      We can agree/disagree about ANY film as films are so subjective. I’m not going to apologize for not loving a particular film, even if others think it’s the greatest work of art ever conceived. I hardly think anyone would say that about this film, but in any case, I don’t judge films by WHO or WHAT studio made it, I judge it for what it is, the final product. I’m glad you love the film more than I did, but please do not lash at others who don’t share your view, especially going so far as accusing my integrity as a blogger. Anyone who read my blog knows I do not write hearsay or gossip.

      Please consider what you write before you post a comment like this again, not just on my blog but others as well. Thanks and good day to you.

      1. Bariebel

        Hi Ruth M.
        They are your words “Even if you aren’t [like me, as I haven’t seen any of him movies], which made me respond to your post.

        1. Well obviously I’m referring to Errol Flynn’s movies that I have not seen, NOT this film I’m critiquing. That doesn’t mean I’m not fit to review the film as it is. Just like I don’t need to have seen any of Charlie Chaplin movies to have an opinion on a movie about Chaplin.

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