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Roger Dodger (2002)

From the DVD Shelf: Roger Dodger (2002)

In the biting, acid film Roger Dodger, Campbell Scott stars as Roger, a handsome, well-off, and very arrogant New York advertising executive who seems able to use his sharp tongue to talk any women he wants into having sex with him.  One day his 16 year-old nephew, Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) shows up in his office.  Nick is in town looking at Columbia, and while he’s there he wants his smooth-with-the-ladies uncle to teach him how to talk to women.  Although he’s at first put-off by the idea of having to deal with this kid, Roger quickly agrees to school Nick in That Which He Knows Best, and the two begin a crazy night that will take them all over the city and in and out of the lives of several fascinating and beautiful women.

I don’t know what on earth prompted me to rent this film on DVD five or six years ago, but it really blew me away as a unique, hard-to-define, I can’t quite believe what I’m watching film.  I’ve been meaning to see it again for ages.

Written and directed by Dylan Kidd, Roger Dodger is an extraordinarily well-written and well-made film that demonstrates the skill of an artist in his prime.  (I really want to know what the heck Mr. Kidd has been up to since 2002!!  I wish he’d made six movies in that time!)  The script is exquisite, with rat-a-tat dialogue that is fiercely intelligent, funny, and very biting.  If you told me that David Mamet had scripted this film, I would easily believe it.

Right away from the opening scene it’s clear that this is a movie unlike many others.  The film opens with a lengthy post-meal conversation over drinks and smokes between Roger and his friends.  In between some light banter with the people around the table, Roger unloads a lengthy monologue describing how he feels that evolution and technology are combining to gradually render the male species obsolete.  Roger’s dialogue demonstrates his keen intelligence and verbal skill, and also his arrogance and his close-minded, gender-focused worldview.  The scene is shot in a fascinating style that Mr. Kidd will utilize throughout the film.  There are never any master shots used (wide shots that show us the setting for a scene and where all of the characters are in relation to one another).  Instead, the scene plays out through a series of close-ups, filmed with a hand-held shaky cam that is continually moving around and observing the central characters through visual obstacles (over the shoulder of another character, obstructed by a glass or a table center-piece, etc.).  It’s a bit disorienting, but also extraordinarily vibrant and energizing, and a terrific way to … [continued]