Dylan Kidd's ROGER DODGER is a deliciously caustic blend of MY DINNER
WITH ANDRE, IN THE COMPANY OF MEN and TADPOLE. The script, delivered
with machine gun cadence, is so sharp that it's a lethal weapon.
Think of ROGER DODGER as the date movie that Franz Kafka would have made.
The mesmerizing story concerns a misogynistic extrovert named Roger
(Campbell Scott) who thinks that he is God's gift to women. Believing
himself to be a great intellect, he loves to spout cheap analysis
of the world's problems. In the opening, after a lengthy diatribe
on the sorry state of men and women today, he concludes, "Ten or fifteen
generations from now, men will be reduced to servitude." His pickup
lines for women at bars are so sarcastic and humiliating that they
frequently get him thrown out into the street. Like Aaron Eckhart's
frightening performance in Neil LeBute's IN THE COMPANY OF MEN, Scott
turns in such a masterful piece of acting as a slime ball that you
wish he'd give up his career as a good guy and turn totally to the dark side.
The story, which happens mainly over one night, concerns Roger's teaching
his 16-year-old nephew, Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), how to score. A virgin,
Nick is an eager but unsure pupil. (His introduction to the world
of sex is handled tastefully with almost nothing shown, which is easy
since the focus is completely on the dialog and not the miniscule
action.) The back story about Roger's childhood sounds like it might
make a great prequel.
Like a CIA operative teaching a young recruit, Roger demonstrates
to Nick how to surreptitiously peer down women's blouses and up their
skirts. The real battleground in Roger's war of the sexes occurs
in darkly lit bars, where single women roam. The first two women
that these bachelors on the town try to pick up are Andrea (Elizabeth
Berkley, SHOWGIRLS) and Sophie (Jennifer Beals, FLASHDANCE). The
sweetest part of the film occurs when Nick asks them about their "first
time." In the show's tenderest moment, Sophie gives Roger his first
time, his first time with a real kiss -- his playing of Post Office
when younger is officially declared invalid.
Spending his life writing copy for commercials, Roger takes a dim
view of his job. "As we speak, consumers everywhere need reminders
of how fat and unattractive they are," he says in one of his parting
lines. The movie, which has two more good acts after the one with
Berkley and Beals, knows how to part well. Just when you think that
Roger is on the ropes, he bounces back to give his all to the minor
leagues to which he finds himself relegated. One can easily imagine
an octogenarian Roger in a nursing home harassing everyone with a skirt.
ROGER DODGER runs 1:44. It is rated R for "sexual content and language"
and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes