Jake is an imaginative and endlessly witty take on a potentially horrific premise: what if you awoke one day to find someone else living your life, and doing it better?
Jacob (Jason Fitch) is a 30-something lad who opens his eyes one morning to go through the motions of another humdrum day at a dead-end job, until he is hijacked by an imposter who explains his time is up – due to his patent failings, Jacob has been “recast”. To make matters worse, the new Jacob (“Call me Jake!”) is engaging and charismatic, dedicated to making the most of the life Jacob has been squandering.
However, unlike other instances of body-snatching, Jacob and Jake can coexist – though the hapless and helpless Jacob is relegated to the role of “VJ – just a mate” who suffers the further indignity of not being recognised by his friends or family. Can Jacob wrest back the lead role in his own life from this charming interloper?
You say sci-fi, I say Lynchian – whatever, as written and directed by Auckland local Doug Dillaman, the cleverly conceived story moves at pace from one humiliation to the next for our poor, incapable hero, played with great pathos by the statuesque Fitch. Seeming several feet shorter, Leighton Cardno is terrific as the incumbent Jake, wearing birthday presents from his mother and mending relationships while Jacob looks mournfully on. The principal actors are perfectly cast, and even the potentially cliched roles such as the well-meaning, neglected parents and the drugged out flatmate (a delightful turn from Tainui Tukiwhao) are rendered fresh, funny, and charmingly realistic. Laughs abound in this dark and incisive comedy, while Jacob is left carrying the pathos.
Dillaman’s American provenance is given away only by the scripting of “diapers” (not a quibble so much as an amusement) – otherwise, his tale of a universal fear – that your nearest may embrace another “you” as their dearest – is as Kiwi-made as its endearingly straight-up characters.
Perhaps inevitably, the most fun surrounds the revelations of Jacob’s loss of power, as the story winds its way through an apt drama class subplot towards an unexpectedly bloody resolution. You won’t need to peek through parted fingers, but even if you do, you’ll find Jake is enormous fun, beautifully photographed and snappily edited with some superb performances.
Managing all these elements with a moral too (you’d better be shouting “Carpe diem!” as you leave the cinema) makes Jake a very bright feather in the director’s cap.