A movie both cloyingly and endearingly silly? It must be Michel Gondry. So goes Mood Indigo, the kind of film that would have an alarm clock that runs around as a centipede when ringing. The film follows Colin, the wealthy inventor of a cocktail-mixing piano, and his newfound relationship with Chloé. We watch the joyous beginnings of their love and then follow their struggles when Chloé is diagnosed with a respiratory illness, having a flower growing in one of her lungs (as I said, cloying and endearing). Upon seeking enough money to pay for treatments, the joyful Colin must embrace the cold, heart-sucking reality of monotonous day jobs.
Mood Indigo is an odd film that you have to embrace; otherwise you’ll hate how randomly silly the world is. I was more enamored with Gondry’s silly affectations when I was a fresh teenage cinephile; his films are beginning to feel too light and shallow for me. Don’t misunderstand me, Mood Indigo has deep emotions too it but they generally evoke your immature childlike view of serious matters. It’s not that he’s showing an actual child’s perspective but rather the childlike part of us that never leaves. It’s actually just as Arcade Fire says so beautifully in Wake Up, “If the children don’t grow up / our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.” Gondry is a treasure to cinema, as no one else can awaken this aspect of a human being so well. Perhaps, at least this time around, I’m too jaded to appreciate it.
The Double exists in its own strange world, much like a short story; you have to accept the absurdity of its universe, which is never explained. Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg) lives a lonely life in a small, dark apartment where he spends most of his time working in an oppressively cold, damp office doing monotonous work or spying on Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), his manic pixie dream girl, from his apartment. The lonely, isolated and underappreciated male who isn't confident enough to get the woman of his desires is clearly not an exciting, new character. We’ve seen this before many times and I can’t say Ayoade’s The Double had a particularly interesting take.
The film’s catch comes when a new employee shows up at the office; James (Jesse Eisenberg) is Simon’s exact double except he’s confident and charming. James spends the rest of the film taking everything that Simon had and edging him further out of existence. Eisenberg isn’t particularly standout in either part but he’s certainly better at timid than sexually charismatic.
The film is overwhelmingly stylized. Most settings look and sound like dungeons. His apartment feels like a jail cell with a door instead of bars. The office feels like a dungeon with cubicles. I tired of this aesthetic quickly although I must admit it was far more interesting than the bland beauty of The Trip to Italy’s Italian landscapes, which I’d seen just before.
I’d like to see The Double again, maybe not as my 28th film from the previous 2 weeks. Perhaps when I’m not in the craze of a festival I’ll be able to comprehend Ayoade’s world that so many seem to be enamored by.
The Trip to Italy
The Trip to Italy is a sequel to The Trip; in the vein of The Hangover Part II, it follows the exact same formula as the first but places it into a new location. The Trip, currently available on Netflix Instant Watch, followed fictionalized versions of comedic British actors Steve Coogan (Philomena) and Rob Brydon (Would I Lie to You?). Coogan is hired to go on a food tour of northern England and write about the experience. Since his newly ex-girlfriend does not want to accompany him, he brings his friend Rob Brydon. Most of the film is watching Coogan and Brydon sit at a dinner table eating beautiful food, which we briefly see being prepared in the kitchen, and engaging in witty, comedic banter. The most beloved scene from the film involves a succession of Michael Caine impressions. Clearly there is a formula here: British-focused comedic banter, pop culture impressions, pretty countryside, pretty food. Why did I spend half this review describing The Trip? Because unfortunately, The Trip to Italy is basically the same movie but worse.
The Trip to Italy is The Trip with less of the emotional drama, weaker jokes and an Italian backdrop. I don’t have the patience to watch the same thing over again with far less successful humor and character development. So many moments, like the reemergence of the Michael Caine bit, felt forced and merely there to serve the audience’s expectations. The quality of the jokes didn’t justify the experience for me. I was bored. So, so bored.
Italy is merely there to be pretty and provide sexy women for viewers to ogle. While not gratuitous, there are still plenty of sexy women in skimpy bikinis. There are plenty of “look how pretty Italy is” shots. There’s nothing wrong with those things but it shows how this film is aimed at mostly pure entertainment. That’s fine but it wasn’t for me.
I imagine some viewers will find this film delightful as it does provide a selection of light comedy from known British comedians and shows pretty views and pretty women. That’s fine but I’m not one of those viewers. I definitely recommend you find The Trip when you’re exhausted and need something not terrible to watch and enjoy. However, maybe stay away from The Trip to Italy.