Posts Tagged ‘Campbell Scott’

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REVIEW: Roger Dodger (2002)

August 8, 2010

Jesse Eisenberg’s first ever major film, Roger Dodger, is a unique coming-of-age story with enough simplicity on the surface and enough complexity beneath it to take the form of an impressively entertaining study of the social interactions between men and women. As writer/director Dylan Kidd’s first project and winner of the Best Feature Film Award at the first ever Tribeca Film Festival in 2002, this surprisingly well-done little gem will leave you wondering why it wasn’t a bigger commercial success and why Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, The Social Network) is the only member of its production that you still see in the business on a regular basis. (No discredit to Jesse; if there’s anything Roger Dodger does reinforce, it’s the fact that he deserves every bit of success that he’s achieved).

“Sex is everywhere,” Roger Swanson, played by the show-stealing Campbell Scott (Dying Young, Big Night), tells his socially lost, 16-year old nephew, Nick (Eisenberg). Nick has traveled alone to New York City in the hopes of convincing his smooth-talking Uncle Roger into teaching him the ways of seduction so that he might end his romantic troubles by finally getting a girl and losing his virginity. While Roger is overwhelmingly cynical, incessantly arrogant, and often brutally forthright (blatantly exemplified by the motto he applies to the advertising business– “You can’t sell a product without first making people feel bad”), there is no one who knows the rules of the game better. He solidifies his tactics with an impeccable track record; he takes a woman home “every night”.

Originally reluctant to open up his one man band to the prospect of apprenticeship, Roger agrees to spread his wisdom to Nick. What follows is a night out in the city that never sleeps in a crash course in charming women. From hilariously ridiculous scenes of the two scouting out women on the streets to unexpectedly profound conversations at a bar, the night proves to be an open examination of these two previously mysterious characters.

However, the movie is far from simply a character study. While Scott’s and Eisenberg’s performances are near-perfect, the execution of the film ensures that its value is not dependent upon the quality of the acting. Behind a simple plot and seemingly simple characters is a noteworthy script that delivers witty, realistic dialogue and intriguing conversations. Free from hollywood-ized n0nsense and feel-good drivel, the scenes between the two guys and the two women they engage at a bar are perhaps the film’s best, showcasing not only Roger’s subtle tricks and Nick’s charming innocence, but also the natural chemistry between Scott and Eisenberg and the vulnerabilities they both carefully expose with their characters.

The chaotic events of the night lead to an ending that, while it strays slightly from the tone of the rest of the movie and perhaps comes a bit too suddenly, is perfectly raw and unexpected. I can’t remember being more satisfied with an ending in a good while.

All in all, Roger Dodger teaches the common moviegoer that not all good indie flicks have to be about vibrant colors, trendy folk music, and quirky families (Little Miss Sunshine, Juno). And more importantly, this smart man’s American Pie (even if that sounds like an oxymoron) proves that not every coming-of-age, cherry-popping comedy (or maybe more dramedy, in this case) has to be sullied with sloppy and overdone high school stereotypes, eye-rolling dialogue, and unlikable characters of both genders.

I’m hooked, Jesse. Keep making movies.