Roger Dodger


Directed by: Dylan Kidd
Written by:Dylan Kidd
Starring: Campbell Scott, Jesse Eisenberg, Isabella Rossellini, Elizabeth Berkley, Jennifer Beals
Released: March 6, 2003
Grade: B+

Roger Swanson (Scott) is a young, successful guy.  He works in advertising and knows how to force his target audience into consuming the products he advertises – by making them feel insecure about themselves.  He’s got intelligence and enjoys outwitting his friends in deeply philosophical discussions.  If that isn’t enough, Roger is quite the ladies man.  Frequenting the clubs of Manhattan on a nightly basis, he uses his confident persona to schmooze women and subdue them into meaningless one night stands.

It’s a swanky lifestyle which has suddenly found itself off balance.  Roger’s currently sleeping with his significantly older boss, Joyce (Rossellini), and you get the sense he feels something deeper.  She isn’t though and knowing the risks of an intra-office relationship, Joyce suggests they end their short-lived relationship.  Roger is upset by both this development and the fact that he’s lost the upper-hand against a woman (a rare occurrence in his life).

Out of the blue, his 17-year-old nephew, Nick (Eisenberg), arrives on the doorstep.  Apparently, he’s in town to look at prospective colleges but we soon understand he’s not paying Roger a visit out of courtesy.  The hormonally charged Nick hasn’t even made it to first base with a girl before and with campus life around the corner, wants Roger to teach him all the tricks to woo the ladies.

Roger’s somewhat pleased by the challenge and takes Nick to a nightclub with the specific intention of getting both of them laid.  They meet two girls, Andrea (Berkley) and Sophie (Beals), and Roger starts showing his moves.  But it’s Nick’s innocence the girls seem most attracted to and Roger’s forced to adapt his style to get the job done…

Roger Dodger has a rough, documentary feel as it was filmed entirely with one hand held camera.  The cast remained “in character” for extended periods of time as there were few cuts from first-time writer/director Dylan Kidd.  It’s also a very dark film but I’m not talking about the subject material.  With the film shot in indoor locations with minimal lighting, there’s a lot of black on screen and at times characters are only recognisable from their shadows and voices.  An effective technique that brings the setting alive.

Campbell Scott has received rave reviews for his performance.  He’s accustomed to playing nice guys (in films such as The Impostors, The Spanish Prisoner and Big Night) but relishes the chance to extend his range with this freshly raw character.  His evilly smug personality brought back memories of Christian Bale’s depiction of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

A few scenes drift on too long but some wonderful one-liners keep this adventurous film on the rails.  For better or worse, you’ll learn a lot about the real Roger Dodger’s that are out there.