Roger Dodger

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Review byMatthew Turner28/07/2003

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 105 mins

Enjoyable, well-written, darkly comic drama with a great performance by Campbell Scott.

Roger Dodger is the first feature by writer/director Dylan Kidd. The story of how it got made reads like a Hollywood fairytale – Kidd saw Campbell ‘Son of George C.’ Scott sitting in a Greenwich Village café and gave him the script, Scott loved it and came aboard as both star and executive producer, as well as helping out with some well-placed calls for the casting.

The result is a brilliantly written, darkly comic take on the mores of modern dating – like a sort of softer version of Neil LaBute’s In The Company Of Men.

Cocky Cynical Smart-Mouthed Ad Exec

Scott plays Roger Swanson, a cocky, cynical, smart-mouthed advertising executive who likes nothing better than to grandstand about anything and everything to anyone who will listen to him. He believes he has mastered the art of seduction, so he gets a bit of a shock when he’s unceremoniously dumped by his girlfriend, Joyce (Isabella Rossellini). To make matters worse, Joyce is also his boss and she makes it clear that he’s not welcome at a party she’s throwing that evening.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Roger’s 16 year old nephew Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) suddenly turns up in Roger’s office, having apparently run away from home. He’s desperate for ‘Uncle Roger’ to help him lose his virginity, so Roger agrees to take him out to night-clubs on a crash course in How To Seduce Women, deciding that his nephew’s quirks are “just spastic enough to be charming”.

However, to his annoyance, Roger finds his advice continually back-firing and he realises that Jesse is capable of doing quite well on his own…

Complex And Brilliant Performance

Scott is superb and turns in an impressively complex, brilliant performance – Roger is by turns contemptible, charming and ultimately rather pathetic, though Scott ensures that he retains our sympathy. Cleverly, there’s never a scripted moment when Roger actually breaks down, though the strength of his performance is that he allows us to see the cracks in his confidence appearing.

There’s great support, too, from Rossellini but especially from Elizabeth Berkeley and Jennifer Beals as the two women that Roger and Nick pick up in the club. Newcomer Eisenberg is also excellent as Nick, who gradually comes to realise that his uncle isn’t quite the success he thought he was.

In short, Roger Dodger is a brilliantly scripted, well-acted, darkly comic drama that’s both witty and engaging – it’s extremely talky, but it never seems stagey, thanks to dynamic hand-held camerawork and the quality of the script. Highly recommended.

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Roger Dodger
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Content updated: 23/09/2019 20:52

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