Friendship and authorship collide in this fairly clever Canadian comedy.
“Personal expression is the last refuge of the untalented,” says Paul (Brad Dryborough) to apparent doppelgänger Karl (A Gun to the Head’s Tygh Runyan), in what might as well be the thesis statement of Doppelgänger Paul. This, itself, is appropriate, given the nesting meta-layers and wrinkles of recursive self-consciousness that shape the film. Paul is a listless machine worker with a creative writing degree whose life is made more interesting when he begins receiving letters from Karl, a longtime stalker who is convinced that the two are double, or soul-mates, or shadow-selves, or otherwise cosmically connected. After an initially awkward meeting (“You look nothing like me!” Paul balks) the two form an uneasy friendship. Karl gives Paul his manuscript, A Book About How Much I Hate Myself, and Paul sets about editing it.
Thirteen months later, Paul sees author Dave (Matty Finochio) and editor Tony (Ben Cotton) on a morning talk show, giving the story behind their new best-seller, A Book About How Much I Hate Myself. Paul reconnects with his maybe-doppelgänger and they set out to track the two hucksters down on their cross-Canada book tour. There is, at least for the first 60-or-so of the film’s 80-ish minutes, an emotional and interpersonal sterility that stems from the film’s haughty self-regard. Granted, it is smart. And funny. It’s just not as smart and funny as it thinks it is. That said, Doppelganger’s jittery, strung-out poking of contemporary issues of identity and authorship proves consistently engrossing and, when something like real friendship begins emerging at the edges, pretty charming too.
Doppelgänger Paul is screening exclusively at the Royal through March 1, and co-director Dylan Akio Smith will be in attendance at screenings today through Sunday.