Roger Dodger Reviews
This film is truly fantastic, with some witty, sharp dialogue, but its freeze-frame ending, which I won't give away, isn't satisfactory. I really like the idea of Roger's character: it is sharply written by Dylan Kidd, and Campbell Scott plays the oblivious yet confident player to perfection. Jesse Eisenberg is also wonderfully honest and charming as his protege.
Overall, I was ready to give this film five stars until the ending, which might appeal to some, but I'm saying too much when I note that there isn't enough change or struggle not to change in a character.
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
"Control? You're a teenager. Look at your face. Look at what you're eating. My god, look at your shirt. You aren't in control of anything."
Keenly perceptive one-night adventure riding a high-quality script as an estranged uncle takes his awkward nephew for a night on the town with the goal of getting some action. Campbell Scott is terrific as the glib, obnoxious, manipulative, yet strangely well-meaning Uncle Roger while Jesse Eisenberg is ideally cast as Jesse Eisenberg, only even younger. Women would do well to take cautionary notes of the many predatory tricks outlined here! Natural lighting leads to many dark shots, and I eventually grew tired of peering around shoulders with the handheld camerawork, but those are the only major production knocks against this tiny-budgeted indie. Watch for Kristen Bell in an uncredited role delivering the last 3 lines!