Roger Dodger

Movie Review by Neil Ryan

Starring: Campbell Scott, Jesse Eisenberg, Isabella Rossellini, Elizabeth Berkley

Director: Dylan Kidd

ROGER DODGER sets its sights high from the outset with a first scene which is not unlike the opening ‘Like a Virgin’ gambit from RESERVOIR DOGS. A group of work colleagues sit around a table in a public location whilst one of them, Roger (brilliantly essayed by Campbell Scott), shares his opinions with the rest of his party in an impressively cogent tenor which may not convince his companions of his argument but certainly succeeds in reducing them to a state of hushed admiration due to his authoritative and confident delivery. It also sets the tone for the rest of the film – for in Roger’s world he talks and people listen: he uses his slick patter to either get what he wants or undermine what he cannot have.

The supremely self-confident Roger lives alone in Manhattan. He works as an advertising copywriter and enjoys a secretive affair with his boss Joyce (Isabella Rossellini); everything in Roger’s world seems to be under control and just as he wants it. However, things begin to go awry when Joyce ends their affair and, on the same day, his sixteen year-old nephew Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) turns up from Ohio for an interview at Columbia University. Nick wants to tap into his uncle’s formula for success with the ladies and, smarting from Joyce’s rejection, Roger willingly takes his young charge in hand to demonstrate how to manipulate and seduce the fairer sex in the course of a one night trawl through the trendiest, most fashionable, and seediest venues that New York has to offer.

As the evening progresses what becomes clear via the shifting psychological dynamics of the uncle-nephew relationship is that Roger is not as in control as he likes to think he is. His trademark forthright cynicism palls beside the innocent intuition of Nick and he is forced to accept that the presence of his naïve nephew represents an implicit indictment of his shallow lifestyle.

Campbell Scott is fantastic as the quick-witted but hollow Roger: the film is built around his hugely dynamic performance (he appears in every scene). But the rest of the cast are also impressive, especially Eisenberg, and Jennifer Beals and Elizabeth Berkley who are pitch-perfect as a pair of single women who are as enchanted by Nick as they are repulsed by Roger. And despite the film’s emphasis on the dark and cynical machinations of the male psyche ROGER DODGER even manages to end on a surprisingly upbeat note in an unexpectedly light-hearted and optimistic final scene.

Do yourself a favour – ignore your Hulks and your Angels for one night (you won’t miss anything, they will still be there in one guise or another for the next X years) and go see a film that is guaranteed to amuse, enthral, ring familiar, and make you think (and no, that is not a bad thing).

6 out of 6 stars

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