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Enemy (2014)

Cover art:

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Enemy (2014)Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini, Mélanie Laurent

Directed by Denis Villeneuve


Like a modern-day Narcissus, Jake Gyllenhaal is a man who falls in love with his own reflection in Enemy.

Playing dual roles, the actor reunites with his Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve in a pale imitation of a David Cronenberg film. (It’s even set in Toronto and features arachnids! It’s so on the nose, it’s the Jimmy Durante of psychological horror movies.)

While I do applaud just about any attempt at cinematic surrealism and scary movies which stem from original concepts and screenplays, there is something just too cold and distancing about Enemy. I found myself unable to care about either of the Gyllenhaals and their curious conundrum.

Here’s the plot in a spider’s egg sac:

We open on some kind of bizarre, secret peep-show in which men have obviously paid to watch sexy women onstage strip, gyrate, masturbate, and step on tarantulas with their spike-heel shoes.

One of these men is Adam Bell (Gyllenhaal), a nervous history professor who is going through the motions in his work and his life. His girlfriend, Mary (Laurent), doesn’t do much to ease his discomfiture and isn’t a participant in his extracurricular sexual proclivities.

The “other Gyllenhaal” is Anthony St. Claire, a pompous actor who thinks far more of himself than his handful of bit parts in direct-to-VOD movies reveal. He’s married to six-months-pregnant Helen (Gadon), but he’s far more interest in his next role, his next sexual conquest, and his next organic blueberry protein shake than he is in nurturing their relationship.

As it turns out, Adam sees Anthony in a movie and instantly becomes obsessed with finding his exact double. What follows is a sometimes intriguing, but mostly murky cat and mouse game, complete with the old switcheroo – the “twins” swap lives, just to see what it’s like, and let’s just say it’s no fun. Not for the guys and not for the audience.

Although it seems in this review I really did not like Enemy at all, I’m actually of two minds on this (appropriately so, all things considered). While it’s certainly not up to the Cronenberg vibe it strives for (Dead Ringers meets Spider, with a touch of Andrej Zulawski’s Possession thrown in), the movie does have its moments of suspense and thought-provocation. I am not familiar with José Saramago’s original novel, but it seems the screenplay reduces the women to sexual pawns and the “two” male leads as one-note narcissists.

Maybe Enemy will play better at home, but in the theater its web of self-aware quirkiness is just too tedious.

2 out of 5

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Staci Layne Wilson