[Film Review] Roger Dodger (2002)

Roger Dodger poster

Title: Roger Dodger
Year: 2002
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director/Writer: Dylan Kidd
Music: Craig Wedren
Cinematography: Joaquín Baca-Asay
Campbell Scott
Jesse Eisenberg
Jennifer Beals
Elizabeth Berkley
Isabella Rossellini
Mina Badie
Ben Shenkman
Morena Baccarin
Chris Stack
Flora Diaz
Stephanie Gatschet
Tommy Savas
Lisa Emery
Rating: 7.3/10

Roger Dodger 2002

Would anyone love a person like Roger Swanson (Scott)? A good-looking New-Yorker, a latter-day Casanova, who can elaborate on the imminent obsolescence of male gender due to the accelerating diminution of its utility, during his working lunch with the presence of his co-workers and their boss Joyce (Rossellini), a woman significantly older than him and whom he has been seeing secretively for quite a long time, he is her “boy”.

But right in that night, Joyce unilaterally decides to sever their casual affair, Roger doesn’t even have his say in it, but at least, the break-up sex is still on the table, so he takes it with a grudge. In a bar, Roger’s patronizing act to persuade a young girl (Baccani) from putting out to a man whom he claims to a “bad news” to her doesn’t pan out like he wants, because ironically, he is also a “bad news” himself and a total stranger, any girl with a good sense of judgement would not let him get what he wants; later he lets loose his frustration by pretentiously derides a much older woman (Emery), who is waiting for her finance alone in the bar, unfortunately sitting next to him.

So, the consensus is that we don’t like Roger, and no one should, sharp-witted and cerebral, maybe, but he is a callous cad, through and through. However, in the eyes of his nephew, Nick (Eisenberg), who arrives unannounced from Ohio, Roger is a lady’s man who proclaims that he can score every night if he wants. Meanwhile, Roger thrills to play his utilitarian role as his wingman once he finds out Nick is a 16-year-old virgin and

The coaching session starts on the sidewalk, by talking, and the gist is that “sex is everywhere”, here, the hand-held camera employment from the first-time director Dylan Kidd, a tactic has shown great pragmatism and advantage in its intrusive manner under dialogue-laden, interior-located contexts, causes a somehow fluid and distracting effect alfresco, which trivializes the conversation, however, once the pair plunges into the (retrospectively speaking) three-steps mission to make Nick score that night: hooking-up-ladies-in-the-bar, gatecrashing-a-party and ultimately, the “fail-safe” adventure in a seedy whorehouse, the film becomes unstoppable, accurately captures the nitty-gritty in the metropolitan dating sphere, deceitful, desperate and destructive.

A Manichaean strategy to juxtapose an impressionable virgin with a cynical playboy works its way to be beneficial to both parties, Nick, seals his first kiss with an amiable, mature and attractive Sophie (Beals), and sees the vulnerability of a maudlin Donna (Badie), Roger’s colleague in the party which Joyce organizes and Roger is not invited, and sensibly chooses not to take advantage of her. Roger, however, immersed in his own misery after being cheaply dumped, unexpectedly receives a wake-up call which is just in time for him to rescue Nick from losing his virginity in the most vacuous and crudest way.

Scott supremely nails Roger’s character as a rapid-fire and eloquent orator edifying his “inconvenient truth” about men and women – some are not truth per se, merely bravado only to sound smart. But Mr. Scott also excavates much deeper under Roger’s vain front, he bespeaks a seething soul who has nothing in his grip, who is disheartened by superficiality of the man-woman interrelationship, and the fact that he is constantly under-appreciated for being outspoken about it, yes, that’s THE inconvenient truth, if you don’t play along with the rule, you are excluded.

The film is also Jesse Eisenberg’s screen debut, incredibly, his trademark tic of being self-conscious and out-of-the-place has already been honed up to a full blossom. Jennifer Beals and Elizabeth Berkley, make up the pair of the opposite sex as two bar frequenters-cum-friends, Sophie and Andrea, the quartet’s breeze-shooting convo is strangely magnetic, both actresses are at the top of their games of being spontaneous and unfeigned, plus Beals beams with warmth in initiating that first kiss!

Finishing the movie with a flourish of lacuna, ROGER DODGER resonates pretty well as a snappy and honest take on urban philosophy, a US indie curio with a wider appeal than it seems to have.

Oscar 2002 Roger Dodger


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