Some Minor Spoilers Here **************************************************************Critics adore independent films. Made usually on shoestring budgets and starring either no-bodies, wannabees or actors trying to make a statement, independent films are usually made by people who love movies for people who love movies. Enter Dylan Kidd's writing and directing debut, the 2002 very funny and memorable film Roger Dodger.
Campbell Scott (The Spanish Prisoner) plays Roger Swanson, a fast talking, chain-smoking, ever drinking 30-something that believes he is truly God's gift to earthly women. We are first introduced to Roger as he engages in conversation with fellow co-workers at a public restaurant and Roger dominates the conversation offering his views on man's ability over women to read maps, the workings and history of the female genatalia and why science and evolution will have men being reduced to servitude in 10 to 15 generations. Roger dominates the dialogue and with rapid fire crass and the occasional sneer at those that joke at his revelations, we are introduced to a man who is on a conceited high that will eventually lead to his emotional crisis.
Enter Roger's nephew, Nick (played by Jesse Eisenberg) who shows up from out of town and looks to Roger for help in the disposing of his virginity. Roger, acting more like someone who wants to show off his masculine powers than act that of a big brother, takes Nick under his wing for a night of adventure. The self-professed `FN lightening rod' for sex sneaks Nick into bars, takes him to a house party and eventually to an underground brothel in an attempt to shed the youngster of his innocence. But with each new venue, we are exposed to Roger's vulnerability and we experience a man who is on a kamikaze mission to destruction.
In a touching scene between Nick and two women picked up at a local bar (played understatedly by Jennifer Beals and Elizabeth Berkley), it is Nick's innocence and honestly that has the women swoon over Roger's frank and demeaning manner. The scene is wonderfully lit with just street lights and the camera angles which sometimes don't focus on the talking character, suck you in so that you believe you are on that cold park bench with them.
This is the genius that is usually associated with the independent films. People talk over each other, and sets are usually actual locations that lend to the aura and feel of the film. Dylan Kidd uses what light is available to him and sometimes that means that characters are talking in the dark corners of an alley or are blocked out by the backs of other actors. However, one is never lost or feels betrayed by the filmmakers because the dialogue remains so crisp and real.
Campbell Scott won a best actor award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures for his role in Roger Dodger and in my opinion, he was overlooked for an Academy Award nomination for the same role. He delivers the Tarantino-ish dialogue with precision and makes this disgusting character of a man someone that we can relate to or at least understand.
My final note about independent films is that they don't have the pressure to produce the 'Hollywood' ending. Roger Dodger ends not with Roger realizing the err of his way, but with a poignant adult talk with some school boys who show us the same immaturity as Roger, just at a younger understanding. Kudos to all those involved with this marvelous film that was indeed one of the best of 2002. It goes without saying but this is one to check out