Thursday, April 19, 2012

Roger Dodger

Written and directed by Dylan Kidd, Roger Dodger is the story of a womanizing businessman who takes his visiting 16-year old nephew on a night on the town to meet women. There, the man tries to teach his nephew the ways to get laid and be a ladies man. Starring Campbell Scott, Jesse Eisenberg, Elizabeth Berkley, Jennifer Beals, and Isabella Rossellini. Roger Dodger is a witty yet engrossing comedy from Dylan Kidd.

Roger Swanson is a cynical and chauvinistic advertising copywriter who had just been dumped by his own boss Joyce (Isabella Rossellini). Needing to hang around in bars to tell women all of the things they’re doing with the wrong men, Roger is looking to score. Then on a workday where Joyce is having a party as he is uninvited, Roger’s 16-year old nephew Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) makes an unexpected visit as he arrived for an interview with Columbia University. The two chat as Roger decides to take the socially-awkward Nick on a night on the town to show the way to win the heart of a woman and score. After a few pointers, the two arrive at a bar where they meet two beautiful women in Andrea (Elizabeth Berkley) and Sophie (Jennifer Beals). Though Roger tries to help Nick score with the two ladies, Nick’s shy persona manages to win them over despite Roger’s aggressive behavior.

Later that night, Roger decides to crash Joyce’s party to give Nick another shot to score. There, Nick meets Joyce’s drunk secretary Donna (Mina Badie) while Roger hopes to get some revenge on Joyce after learning that is friend Donovan (Ben Shenkman) is going out with her. Though Nick takes a chance to score with Donna, he couldn’t leaving Roger upset over the night as Nick desperate pleads for one more shot. What would happen have Roger question about what he’s doing for his young nephew.

The film is essentially the tale of a man teaching his young nephew how to score with women only to get a few lessons about what kind of man he really is. It’s a plot that is quite simple as writer/director Dylan Kidd explores a man who is essentially a scorned prick that has very cynical views about women and the way he treats them. When he’s dumped by his much older yet more experienced woman who treats Roger the same way he treats women. This would lead him to find a way to exact revenge while helping out his young nephew in the ways of winning this woman over. Though there’s a lot about Roger that is un-likeable, he is still an interesting character who is trying to navigate the world of winning a woman over while telling them that they should go for a guy like him instead of the usual sleaze balls that are all over New York City.

With his nephew on board, Roger would show him how to win a girl over through confidence and a coolness though it is a bit much to the more awkward Nick. What happens is that Nick’s awkwardness and honesty manages to win over some older ladies while he also does something that his uncle is able to do. He acts like a gentleman in the most surprising way much to his uncle’s chagrin although it’s all about trying to get laid. Kidd’s screenplay is very loose in its storytelling as it’s driven by lots of dialogue that is quite engaging about the way men try to win over a woman. He also creates character that are very unique and flawed while finding a way for Roger to show that he isn’t a total prick late in the film. After all, he is an uncle who realizes he is responsible for this young kid that is way over his head in his quest to get laid.

Kidd’s direction is very engaging in its cinema verite style as he always has the camera on something. Shot on location in New York City and with a hand-held camera, Kidd goes for a style that is entrancing where he is often shooting from afar for a few scenes. Some of it is to create the kind of atmosphere that is New York City as a man takes this young teen to a world where it’s go-go-go. With these entrancing shots and amazing close-ups, Kidd definitely creates a film that is very smart but also engrossing for its compelling story of a man teaching a teen how to score.

Cinematographer Joaquin Baca-Asay does excellent work with the wonderful look of the NYC nightlife for its gorgeous exterior settings to more low-key yet atmospheric touches for the interior scenes. Editor Andy Keir does a fantastic job with the editing to play up the swift rhythm of the conversations at the bar to the methodical pacing for Roger to help teach Nick in the ways to woo a woman. Production designer Stephanie Beatrice, along with set decorator Brenna Griffin and art director Dina Varano, does nice work with the set pieces created such as Joyce‘s lavish apartment and its lobby to the more simple look of Roger in his home apartment.

Costume designer Amy Wescott does very good work with the costumes from the stylish dresses the women wear to the more casual look of Nick. Sound recordist Theresa Radka does terrific work with the sound to capture the raucous world of the NYC nightlife in its parties, bars, and some of exterior parts of the city. The film’s score by Craig Wedren is superb for its low-key electronic-jazz score that features pieces co-written with former Nine Inch Nails keyboardist Lee Mars to play up the energy of the NYC nightlife.

The casting by Laylee Olfat and Marcia Turner is brilliant for the array of actors that is cast for this film. Among the small but notable appearances for the film, there’s Morena Baccarin as a woman in the bar Roger tries to warn, Courtney Simon as Nick’s mother, Chris Stack as a co-worker of Roger‘s, Mina Badie as Joyce’s secretary whom Nick meets at a party, and Ben Shenkman as a friend of Roger who would end up being Joyce’s new boyfriend. Isabella Rossellini is wonderful as Roger’s boss/ex-girlfriend Joyce who treats Roger in a similar way in the way he treats women only to torment him with her wisdom. Elizabeth Berkley and Jennifer Beals are great in their respective roles as Andrea and Sophie who are wowed by Nick’s awkwardness as well as his honesty.

Campbell Scott is amazing as the smarmy Roger who tries to score with women with his thoughts on life and everything else while teaching his young nephew in how to win a woman. It’s a very charismatic and broad performance from Scott as he definitely rises up to the challenge and more for this part. Finally, there’s Jesse Eisenberg in a true breakthrough performance as Nick. Bringing a real sense of low-key humor to his awkward character, there’s an innocence to Eisenberg’s performance as this young kid who has no clue on how to woo a woman while doing things in the most surprising manner. It is definitely one of the great performance for any newcomer as it’s definitely the start of a tremendous career for Eisenberg.

Roger Dodger is an extraordinary comedy from Dylan Kidd that features top-notch performances from Campbell Scott and Jesse Eisenberg. Along with a wonderful supporting female cast that features Elizabeth Berkley, Jennifer Beals, and Isabella Rossellini. It’s a film that allows audience to see how a man tries to navigate his nephew into scoring with them. In the end, Roger Dodger is a smart and entertaining film from Dylan Kidd.

© thevoid99 2012


Anonymous said...

This movie really took me by surprise by how painfully true and funny it was and by how great of an actor Campbell Scott is. I would have never known that the dude from Singles would be so great as a womanizer and it's a real wonder just where the hell this guy has been since this and why he hasn't gotten bigger roles. Great performance from Eisenberg though and you can definitely tell that he was bound to be a huge star. Good review Steve.

thevoid99 said...

Well, considering that his parents are George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst, the dude obviously has talent. Where is he really?

This is the film where I discovered Jesse Eisenberg. Man, he's come such a long way. Oh, did you know that the scene where Jennifer Beals kisses him was actually his very first kiss? Lucky motherfucker!