Eye For Film >> Movies >> Roger Dodger (2002) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
In Britain, he would have been Roger The Dodger. What's in a word? Everything, it seems, because this is a word movie.
The last time a writer/director's debut caused a buzz with such razzle dazzle witticisms was when Whit Stillman brought out Metropolitan in 1990. His characters, debs' escorts in the privileged hothouse environment of Upper Manhattan, were as acerbic as the D-man, but, ultimately, more human.
Roger (Campbell Scott) is touching 40, still single, a copywriter at a successful ad agency, whose talent lies in chat-up techniques, the bum waste ramblings of a practised liar and the ability to take a girl to bed in 20 sentences. His gift of the gab becomes a relentless cavalcade of opinion, supposition, flirtatious innuendo and gag writer's bile.
Underneath, he's not a nice man, whose arrogance hides issues that are too personal to unravel. He's a fun companion for a while until he overdoses on ego and the world of healthy feelings is contaminated by cynicism.
When his 16-year-old nephew Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) turns up in his office out of the blue - Ohio, actually - and says he's in New York to look over Columbia University and you know he's AWOL from home for some reason, but don't particularly care why, Roger has to think fast. He's having a bad day, since his boss (Isabella Rossellini) told him, "I don't want to see you socially anymore," after their affair was terminated the previous night. "Find a way to deal with it."
He takes Nick on the town to teach him the tricks of the trade, which becomes a lesson in insincerity and a victory of innocence over braggadocio. They go to singles bars, night spots, a brothel, where the girls respond to Nick's honesty with gentle compassion, while seeing straight through the chain smoking charm offensive of this corporate cocktail jockey, Uncle Roger.
The film is all words and attitude. Scott's performance resembles a Comedy Store stand up routine, ably supported by newcomer Eisenberg. The camerawork looks rough and handheld to give it street cred, although, for a first movie, writer/director Dylan Kidd deserves the accolades and awards he has received. If it feels shallow, that is only a reflection of the character at its centre, who, let's face it, is a sad man in a lonely city.Reviewed on: 13 Aug 2003