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Enemy - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B-
Acting: B+
Writing: C+
Cinematography: C+
Editing: C+

Maybe Enemy is better than I realize. It's easy for stuff to go over my head. A lot of this movie did exactly that. To its credit, it's fairly mesmerizing until the very end -- when it cuts to the credits with a jolt, not one thing clearly explained. And it's easy to have spent the previous ninety minutes trusting that some pieces will fall together. But the pieces just stay left apart.

Certainly the spiders mean something. In the very beginning, Jake Gyllenhaal in a dark room that looks like some kind of secret club, a large hairy spider presented on a silver platter, before it appears a woman's stilettoed foot is about to step down on it. A brief wide shot of a smog-choked Toronto skyline, a gigantic, spindly-legged spider slowly lumbering across it, immediately reminiscent of the War of the Worlds tripods. A bedroom-sized spider at the very end. All these visual spider references ever made me think was, What the fuck?

Enemy is directed by Denis Villeneuve, who gave us last year's surprisingly excellent Prisoners. Gyllenhaal was also in that film, although his part and character made a lot more sense. Here he plays two characters -- or does he? (Dun-dunn.) Adam is a college professor, who gets a movie recommendation from a work acquaintance, and in the movie discovers a bit part actor who appears to be his exact double. He seeks out the actor, who name turns out to be Anthony. Anthony clearly exists: when Adam visits Anthony's talent agency, he is recognized as Anthony, and given an envelope left for him. Other characters exist and interact with Adam and Anthony in their respective worlds.

There is a moment, though, when the point of view shifts suddenly from Adam's to Anthony's life or world. Adam calls Anthony's phone number and Anthony's wife answers the phone, hearing an identical voice. She even eventually goes to the school where Adam works and is understandably freaked out by him.

Adam and Anthony finally meet, and they are together in the same room in only one scene. It brings up the question, in retrospect, of no other character ever seeing the two of them together. Enemy clearly is exploring themes of identity, just without any clarity. Are we to assume that Adam and Anthony are indeed two different people, or that one is the other's delusion, or that both actually exist but one is leading a double life? In none of these scenarios does the proposition play out realistically, without any nagging questions.

Enemy is both intriguing and confusing as the title itself. Anthony becomes a different kind of delusional, a jealous man, convinced that his double has had sex with his wife. He turns himself into Adam's nemesis by declaring he's going to take his clothes and then go on a "romantic getaway" with his girlfriend. Adam, although far more nervous about the idea, goes to Anthony's home and to his pregnant wife. The wife, Helen (Sarah Gadon), seems to have flashes of suspecting Anthony is now Adam, but otherwise seems to accept him as Anthony. The girlfriend, Mary (Mélanie Laurent), happily goes along on the getaway, and doesn't suspect anything until she notices the impression of a ring on his finger.

It's hard to accept either Anthony or Adam as delusions when considering the ways their women interact with them, with incidents tethered to objects in the material world rather than the imagination. The same goes for Adam living a double life -- if these were really the same person, then we would not have one with a ring impression on his finger and one without. One feels forced to conclude that both these guys really exist separately, even though Adam's mother (Isabella Rossellini) insists she has only one son. Is she lying?

There's no inherent flaw in a film leaving questions unanswered, but Enemy just plain has too many. It's quite absorbing, in spite of all the wide shots of Toronto that make it look like an oppressively overcrowded and polluted city, constantly shot with dingy color filters. By the time it reaches that abrupt ending, all the promise that had been building up to that point falls apart. In the end, it's just too obtuse for its own good.

Jake Gyllenhaal is his own ENEMY.

Overall: C+
2 comments or Leave a comment
fatpie42 From: fatpie42 Date: April 2nd, 2014 11:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've got "Prisoners" currently sitting waiting to be watched. Is it really good? I've been hearing such mixed reports on that one.
tommy50702 From: tommy50702 Date: February 23rd, 2015 01:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Jake Gyllenhaal is smashing it these days, easily one of the best actors in the world at the moment .
2 comments or Leave a comment