Jesse Eisenberg in 'The Double'

Jesse Eisenberg in "The Double." (Dean Rodgers / Magnolia Pictures / July 21, 2012)

If the clang and clutter of summer superhero movies and action behemoths aren't for you — or even if you just want a break — there are still plenty of options in the months ahead, both at the art house and the far corners of the multiplex.

Which isn't to say that even these movies don't have some of the same features as their louder, bigger cousins. There's the end credits stinger of "Calvary," which instead of teasing a sequel hauntingly shows the locations from the movie without people, or the microbudget action sequence of "Happy Christmas," when a frozen pizza forgotten in the oven sets off smoke alarms and panic.

So even if you're just going to the movies for the air conditioning, don't feel strong-armed into seeing something you won't like. Here are a few choices.

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In "Words and Pictures," opening May 23, the art teacher and the English teacher at a New England prep school square off as to which is more evocative in conveying the specifics of human emotion, the written word or the image.

The teachers are played by Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, their kicky chemistry giving the film an added spark, as the story conveys both their characters' mutual attraction as well as the way in which they are both grappling with where their talents, life choices and fate have landed them. (Binoche did her own painting.)

"I certainly wasn't interested in making just another romcom," said director Fred Schepisi, whose restlessly diverse filmography includes "Roxanne" and "Six Degrees of Separation." "The people are real, the dilemmas are real, their struggles are real, the humor is real and the attraction is real. It's about working out where you're at and finding a way to go forward."

So as a film director who uses the script and the camera, does Schepisi himself have an opinion on words versus pictures?

"As we know, both can be very powerful if used in a powerful way," he said, evading the question with a laugh. "That's why we introduce music at a certain point."


Based on an 1846 novella by Dostoevsky, "The Double" is rooted in the existential anxieties of urbanized life, the fear of being unrecognized or even that someone else is leading a better version of your life.

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Opening May 9, the film finds Jesse Eisenberg playing opposite himself as both anonymous office worker Simon James and his newly arrived one-upping colleague James Simon. The two compete for the attention and affection of a young woman in the copy department, played by Mia Wasikowska.

English director and co-writer Richard Ayoade previously made the whimsically melancholy teen romance "Submarine," and though his offbeat, deadpan sensibility provides a through-line, "The Double" is something different.

"The script occasionally read as a more traditional comedy," said Eisenberg, "but when we were filming it, I realized there was something much darker or sadder or terrifying about the world that was being created. Traditional comedy tropes didn't necessarily apply."

Was Eisenberg secretly rooting for one character over the other?

"Simon is right because he is ethical and cares about others," he said. "And James is also correct because James lives in this kind of true animal world of competition and efficiency. They're just living in different contexts."


In "Happy Christmas," filmmaker Joe Swanberg enlisted his own young son Jude to play opposite himself and Melanie Lynskey as a family in Chicago. Their quiet routines are turned upside down by the arrival of the husband's trouble-making younger sister, played with bad-girl zeal by Anna Kendrick.