Roger Dodger

Director: Dylan Kidd

Mid-way through the ingeniously clever film debut by writer/director Dylan Kidd, sixteen year old Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) informs two gorgeous women in a bar (played by Jennifer Beals and Elizabeth Berkley) that the reason his uncle Roger (Campbell Scott) was given the nickname of Roger Dodger was that as a kid he was able to talk his way out of any situation and turn it into his advantage. Therefore, it’s only fitting that Roger became a successful advertising copywriter and the audience is left in no doubt of his talents and powers of persuasion during the breathlessly shocking and crisply well-written near monologue by Scott that opens the film as he pontificates on the war between the sexes and his belief that eventually men will be deemed obsolete. This off-the-wall, yet completely gripping, pretentious theory and Roger’s entire character are like a bad traffic accident. For even when he’s a disaster (especially after being dropped by his older lover and boss Isabella Rossellini) and ultimately decides to take out his revenge by reducing strange women in bars to stereotypes, sizing them up in ways he’s learned in advertising—we find his split-second decisions are not only appalling but, like the aforementioned accident, it’s darn near impossible to look away. After being spurned by love, Roger’s ego (the only currency he recognizes) is questioned as he puts his career at risk and is surprised by the arrival of his relatively estranged nephew Nick. Under the guise of a college admissions tour and interview, Nick bursts in from his native Ohio only to confess later over dinner that the real education he’s seeking is Roger’s advice on how to score with women. Kidd’s fresh yet brutal dialogue is delivered to perfection by Scott (also an executive producer of the film) who also earned an award from the National Board of Review as the Best Actor of that particular year. While some critics complained about the shaky hand-held digital photography, I felt that it really added to the persona of the hyper masculine and misogynistic Roger, putting us in the same point-of-view as our usually unlikable, although oddly compelling tour guide. Kidd’s film which was a splash here in the states earning him an award for the Best Narrative Feature Film by Tribecca’s Film Festival also earned him a fan base overseas from Venice Film Festival naming Roger Dodger the Best First Film for his debut effort.