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5 reviews, 11 user ratings

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Roger Dodger
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by Erik Childress

"A Hilarious, Fabulous Debut and a Career Performance"
4 stars

It will always be a game. Men and women. An eternal game where two sides have their own strategies, their own maneuvers and frequently call audibles when they donít like the look of the defense. The battle of the sexes have waged war on television and is constant fodder for playwrights and low-budget filmmakers when theyíre trying to break through or they simply donít have any other ideas. Writer/director Dylan Kidd has ideas. Many of them. And he gives them all to his main character, one of the most memorable in one of the freshest surprises of the year.

Take Aaron Eckhartís Chad from In the Company of Men and Vince Vaughnís Trent from Swingers and somewhere in between you will find Campbell Scottís Roger. He is a man who revolves around his opinions, most of them involving women. In an opening scene he unfolds his mantra at lunch amongst his colleagues, laying down the law on the everlasting struggle between the sexes. His conviction in his own words is so powerful (as he explains how men will someday be eliminated from the equation) that youíre instantly drawn to whatever he says, no matter how full of bile or how much you disagree.

A man so well groomed, so passionate and, seemingly, so intelligent would suggest the power he appears to be lacking in the professional world. He writes copy for an ad agency, is sleeping with the boss (Isabella Rossellini) and is in line for a major promotion. But like his beliefs, they are an illusion that he holds a more important place in the world than he actually does. Thatís when Nick arrives.

Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is Rogerís 16-year old nephew, in New York to check out Columbia University. He stops by, unexpectedly, to visit his admired uncle who has nevertheless made a point to avoid his own sister (and clearly had issues with his domineering father.) Roger indulges Nick by accompanying him to dinner and playing catch-up, but when his little nephew reveals his problems with the ladies, his ears become wide open.

What follows is a series of extended sequences where Roger coaches Nick in the fine art of snagging women. From the streetwise little tips of how to look at a beautiful woman without getting caught to the Happy Hour prowl involving a pair of potential conquests (Elizabeth Berkeley and Jennifer Beals), the dialogue in these scenes are so sharp, so dead-on blunt that its easy to laugh hysterically, applaud and cringe all at the same time.

There may not be much to Roger (a quick arc late in the film seems unlikely but is also welcome and touching), but Campbell Scott makes the most of it. In a career performance that deserves Oscar consideration, Scott finds that middle ground in-between Chad and Trent so that you loathe things that he says and does, but canít help but feel compelled to watch him do his thing. As Alfred Hitchcock once said, ďan audience will love any character, no matter how evil, if heís good at his job.Ē Scott is right on the money (so money) with this role. Eisenberg is perfect too as Rogerís wide-eyed, shy counterpart who wants big uncleís advice but is still impelled by his own instincts. Berkeley, Beals and Rossellini all give pitch-perfect support as well beyond the beauty we may be secretly hoping (but not admitting) that Roger & Nick get a part of.

You canít sell a product without making them feel bad. Thatís what Roger tells us about the advertising agency and the same rules can be applied to the world of dating or one night stands. How can their life be approved by what you are offering, even if it is for just a few hours? (Just donít make them feel bad about you.) This is a fabulous, hilarious debut from Dylan Kidd that knows this world and doesnít pretend to have all the answers (wonderfully revealed in a final shot that insinuates the battle will continue.) Kidd does understand though how the selfish egoes of some guys make it not only harder for women to establish trust and love, but also for those men not interested in just wanting to bed them down, but ready to cover them up and take care of them.

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originally posted: 10/25/02 06:05:24
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User Comments

1/08/09 Shaun Wallner Great story! 4 stars
12/04/04 K. Sear Extremely refreshing and completely witty and cutting. 5 stars
9/30/04 Van Duong Excellent Direction and fun 5 stars
8/27/03 Phil M. Aficionado Well done all around, characters take over --- well acted characters at that 4 stars
4/01/03 rue the whirl very cool 5 stars
2/14/03 Andrew Carden Quite Good! Excellent Direction and Fun Performances. 5 stars
12/23/02 NoMargin A better film then I expected going in, 4 stars
11/07/02 Jake Wonderfully entertaining. Often hilarious. 5 stars
10/25/02 Craig Clark Very well done. Superb dialogue and acting. 5 stars
10/24/02 Allison Incredible Film! 5 stars
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