In theaters now is the movie The Pretty One, about a woman, Laurel, who survives a car accident in which her twin sister, Audrey, is killed. But Audrey was the fun cool one, so Laurel abandons her Drab Twin persona to upgrade for her sister’s – since she’s the only one who knows she’s not dead. The movie looks like a comedy, which is weird since the plot is pretty messed up. I’m assuming [hoping?] they’re saving the ugly cry confession where Laurel admits she’s charming people under false pretenses and maybe not grieving her twin sister’s death for the actual movie, since we don’t see any of that in the trailer. In any event, Zoe Kazan and Jake Johnson look super cute and I’ll totally be watching it.
But the discussion here isn’t about grotesque identity appropriation or sociopath twin girls. That’s why we have the Soska Sisters. The real story is that The Pretty One is the first release in a string of five movies before the summer solstice in which the protagonist is pitted against themselves or their doppelganger – or maybe it’s a mind game and they’re the same thing! Here’s the roundup for the coming months:
These days, it’s the super-natural, super-human or extraterrestrial adversaries getting all the attention. But these five films hold up the mirror; our greatest battles don’t come from across a rainbow bridge, they come from within. And if one thing is for sure when it comes to doppelganger showdowns: The winner takes all.
From the original Man in the Iron Mask in 1939, to Superman III, to 2009’s quiet sci-fi gem Moon, the proverbial town is never big enough for the both of them. Any one of these spring releases may break tradition and keep both their matching characters standing in the end, but if past is precedent, one is going home in a body bag (or in the case of the Muppets, probably going to jail and getting a just punishment).
Even in the case of dark double comedies, like Me, Myself and Irene – if Halle Berry fighting herself counts here, then so does Jim Carrey vs. Jim Carrey – and Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, the force of good can only be free to live once its evil counterpart is vanquished. Chaplin’s Barber supplants Adenoid Hynkel. Carrey’s Charlie purges himself of Hank. And in Fight Club, our narrator can only be liberated from Tyler Durden by shooting himself in the face, proving that in the pursuit of preserving one’s own identity, threats must be eradicated with extreme prejudice.
It’s easy to blame aliens and Gods and super killers for the woes of the world. And, really, thank God Leatherface hasn’t left us behind. But what happens when your most intimate flaws and inadequacies and failings come screaming at you in the form of… your own familiar face? Now that is scary. The American Culture Wars pit neighbor against neighbor, parent against child, so it’s not surprising to see a pattern emerging in cinema of exploring our enemies as ourselves. What we see on screen is a reaction to what we see in our present world, and at a time when the up and coming “Me Generation” is fighting to define itself amidst accusations of malaise and entitlement, people must look inward to find what defines them, and, in some instances, find out how far they are willing to go when the sanctity of their individuality is threatened.