There are so many streaming options available these days, and so many conflicting recommendations that it's hard to see through all the crap you could be watching. Each Friday, The Verge 's Cut the Crap column simplifies the choice by sorting through the overwhelming multitude of movies and TV shows on subscription services and recommending a single perfect thing to watch this weekend.
What to watch
2013 The Double a loose movie adaptation of a Fyodor Dostoyevsky novella, directed by The IT Crowd star Richard Ayoade and co-written by Ayoade and Avi Korine. Jesse Eisenberg stars as meek office drone Simon James, who spends his days being undervalued by his boss (Wallace Shawn) and pining for his co-worker Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). Then one day, his doppelganger, James Simon, gets hired at his company and begins to assemble himself, making demands, and generally doing everything Simon always secretly wanted to. James Simon steals his life.
Because this is a weekend full of doppelgängers and alternative universes. On Sunday night, Counterpart returns for a second season on Starz, and the "Elseworlds" crossover starts on The CW.
The concept of a "parallel self" has become a staple of science fiction and highbrow literature alike since at least the 1800s. Countless books and movies over the past two centuries have imagined different worlds or variations in our own country. Starz drama Counterpart starring J.K. Simmons as Howard Silk, an undistinguished government agent who learns about the existence of an alternative earth when he comes up with the other side – a more confident, powerful howard – crosses over as part of an operation to a trans-dimensional conspiracy. A riff on Cold War spy thrillers, peppered with ruminations on a late-middle-aged man's many regrets, Counterpart is one of the more somber examples of the doppelgänger plot.
For a more playful spin on on Sunday, Arrow on Monday, and Supergirl on Tuesday. All three shows will be about the reality-bending repercussions when "Earth-90" this, prompting a last-ditch rescue effort that inadvertently leads to Barry's "The Flash" Allen and Oliver's "Green Arrow" Queen switching lives. Borrowing heavily from elements of the classic 1980s DC Comics storyline "Crisis on Infinite Earths," the Elseworlds three-parter wants both pay homage to and gently spoof the comics industry's love of reboots, retards, and imaginary tales, while giving two superheroes a chance
Ayoade's The Double has its puckish side, too – or at least it's more comedic than Dostoyevsky's original version. First published in 1846 and then revised in 1866, the novella tells the story of a weak bureaucrat. The film is pitched as more of a black comedy that's satirizing a business culture where the people who are doing all the work are often held in less than the employees who know how to schmooze. Like many other doppelgangers and old-universe stories, the movie The Double so functions as a fantasy, as one lonely guy gets to see how much happier he could if he just behaved more selfishly.
Who's it for
Fans of cinematic expressionism and literary absurdism.
Movie buffs want to recognize that Ayoade was heavily influenced by Orson Welles' The Trial and Terry Gilliam's The Space Office The Space The Space The Space The Space The Space The Space The Space IT Crowd . The deep shadows, the mean co-workers, and the general grubbiness of Simon James' surroundings are all made to make the corporate world look grimly dystopian. It's a simultaneously nightmarish and funny vision.
The heart of the film, though, is in Eisenberg's superb dual performance, as the obnoxious (but effective) James Simon and the sweet (but ignored) Simon James. The Double 's big joke is that even though these two look exactly alike, no one else recognize the similarity because of their personalities who they are, not their faces. "What is so unique about him?" Simon James asks Hannah, who has a crush on James Simon. What are they really doing?
Where to see it
Hulu. Paranoid thriller, Enemy directed by Arrival 's Denis Villeneuve (from a different book The Double written by Jose Saramago, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a nebbishy academic who becomes obsessed with a small-time actor who looks exactly like him.