Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

What is it with TV shows and movies that feature one actor playing two roles?

You know the plot already…Joe Ordinary is always trying to be something he’s not.

As a result he’s become a failed crook with a heart of gold. One day he gets caught. Worse, the FBI take an interest, and he knows he’s lost everything. He’s facing life imprisonment, and even worse, will never see his little daughter ever again.

And then it unexpectedly turns out that he happens to look exactly like another top FBI agent/the local mafia boss/the US President who has just been seriously incapacitated/killed. Really - he looks exactly like him, right down to the finest detail, apart from the beard.

“It’s uncanny,” gasps one of the FBI dudes, usually adding at some point that the chances are “a million to one.” He obviously hasn’t been to the movies much lately.

At this point Joe always refuses point blank to impersonate his successful doppelganger, until someone points out that the alternative is to go to prison. And anyway, he only has to pull off just one small simple crucial public appearance in two days’ time, and then he’ll be free forever.

In the audience, you look at your watch. They still have another 80 minutes to fill. Oh yes, this plan is fail-safe.

A comedy montage ensues of Joe Ordinary undergoing his transformation into his double, to a completely inappropriate track by some modern shouting rapper. His beard gets shaved off. He’s given new clothes. He’s taught how to behave in high society. We repeatedly cut back to him failing to perform the same simple task of, say, pouring a glass of wine in character. (he pours it on the waiter, on himself, on a girl, on an expensive piece of hi-tech equipment, anywhere except in the glass) He even takes elocution lessons to get the accent right. (No-one’s ever amazed that he already has the same voice) Finally we see him enter a room with the right hair, clothes, and accent. Oozing with confidence he crosses the room, greets everyone individually, and pours a glass of wine like a pro. The music stops. Everyone cheers. His training is over – now he can go and pull-off the stunt for real.

At his final briefing he gets gemmed-up on the people he will meet today and have to convince of his bogus identity – including some attractive girl played by a singer, who used to be famous back during filming. He’s told to keep contact with her to a minimum. As indeed the casting executives might have.

Despite some hilariously unexpected mishaps, he pulls-off the meeting, but at the last moment he gets all overconfident and asks the girl played by the has-been singer out to dinner, still in the guise of his double.

At this point 99% of the audience loses interest, which is all good and proper, as by now the cinema already has everyone’s money. But back to the ‘plot.’

The lie gets perpetuated for longer and longer, until the real guy either gets better or dies, and the FBI realise that Joe Ordinary is out of control in his new persona, and needs to be ‘dealt with.’

Then the most unexpected thing in the whole world happens – the girl reveals that she’s known he was a fake all along.


Together they cleverly defeat the FBI’s evil plans, free some persecuted innocent people, make the world a better place, and either fake his double persona’s death or defeat him by a cunning mixture of split-screen, motion control and Lucasarts special effects.

Either way, Joe Ordinary and the singer are now finally free to pursue their love in anonymity by returning to his old life.

But this time he won’t be a failure. Because along the way, you see, he’s learnt an important life lesson.

Be yourself.

In fairness, on the big screen Dave may well have been funnier than The Marx Brothers. However in 1993, on an Air 2000 flight from Kos to Heathrow, on a small ceiling-mounted TV twenty feet away, and with a telephone quality soundtrack, quite frankly showing any movie with one actor playing two roles was really not a smart move.

I can still remember my thought patterns to this day. “What? What’s he doing there? Wasn’t he in the city a second ago? When is this – the following day? Is this a flashback? Is this one of those arty films that starts in the middle and tells everything in the wrong order? Did they start two different movies with the same actor, run out of money and then splice them together into one and think we wouldn’t notice? Whu…?”

Anyway, gripe over. Today I was on Air New Zealand flight NZ2 from Auckland to London, when I found myself watching Woody Allen’s Melinda And Melinda. Not a doppelganger movie by any stretch of the imagination. Oh no – this was far worse.

Melinda And Melinda - yet another version
Melinda And Melinda is framed by a group of writers, arguing over 2 conflicting ways of telling the same story. One sees Melinda’s story to be a drama, extolling the tragedy of her mysterious past. The other sees her tale as a comedy. We, unfortunately, see both.

That’s the entire cast times 2, dressed the same, using the same names and performing on the same sets. Or was it? From that distance it was sorta hard to tell. This was Dave times a million.

I really have no idea what happened, but the disembodied voice telling everyone they were heading into turbulence was quite imaginative, unlike the special interactive meal which, quite frankly, has been done a lot of times before.

I’d like to see this film again properly, you know, to give it a fair chance, but since I already have 2 thoroughly skewiff impressions of the story, I’m afraid that a third and fourth version might not really help.

Maybe I’ll just go rent something more straightforward, like Run Lola Run.


3 comment(s):

At 5:10 am, Blogger KlownKrusty said...

I'm pretty sure there's a David Lynch film in which the same leading actress plays two different roles in two unrelated plots that never crossover. It may be "Mulholland Drive", it was certainly one of his recent films.

Your friend,

- Krusty

PS - "What is the deeeeeal with an actor playing two roles...?" What is this - my blog?! How would you like it if I started talking about my trips to churches in New Zealand, huh?

At 8:41 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go on.

At 8:43 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go on.


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