Roger Dodger
***.6 GM
Starring: Campbell Scott, Jesse Eisenberg, Elizabeth Berkley, Jennifer Beals, Isabella Rossellini


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I am now going to attempt to explain why Campbell Scott causes within me the very unusual desire to BE him. Not be WITH him, but actually BE the guy. Be warned that I am attempting this explanation without being entirely clear of the reasoning myself. A big part of it, I would imagine, is that he's just so fucking COOL.

Maybe it just stems from seeing "Singles" at a delicate, formative juncture, but I just think that guy is ten shades of smooth and a hundred yards of interesting every time he's on screen. "You always say the perfect thing." He plays the deep yet unpretentious, charming yet secretly uncertain, cool yet warm Everyman that you'd actually like to get to know so damn WELL. I spent much of my college career subconsciously hoping I was as cool as interesting as Campbell Scott. Sort of.

So, anyway, I'm predisposed to like this film, because it stars Campbell Scott as Roger, a New York slickster with a penchant for rambling on eloquently, interestingly and verbosely about a variety of topics, capable of provoking and deferring on a whim, as evidenced by the opening conversation sequence. Whether you agree with the philosphy he's spouting is irrelevant - I want to be this engrossing whenever I speak, although I don't want to be as full of shit as Roger is. We come to discover he's one of the classic 'overthinkers,' who can see all the angles, knows all the deep-rooted issues that cause relationships to succeed or fail, yet cannot for the life of him carry one on successfully. Luckily, he's fooled himself into thinking he doesn't even want one, content to psychoanalyze unwitting subjects in bars and play high-priced office gigolo for his boss at the ad agency (Rossellini), all of whom are growing weary of his games, and we get the sense that Roger himself is getting tired of it, too. But when he gets dumped by his boss, he feels a tailspin coming on, and a rather significant one.

Then along comes his 17-year-old nephew Nick, fresh out of Ohio and lookin' to score. He heard tales of Roger's prowess with the womenfolk and has traveled to New York in hopes of getting some tips on how to get rid of that pesky virginity he hasn't been able to shed. This comes at an opportune time for Roger, as he now has someone with unwavering faith in his abilities to shore up his secretly broken confidence, and thus he takes on the project of creating a sexual being out of the awkward, goofy kid with gusto, not betraying for an instant that his "approach" isn't necessarily as tried and true as he says it is.

Scott's performance here is excellent, which it has to be to make an asshole like Roger as entertaining as he needs to be to carry a movie. He clings to his own sense of control adroitly, coaching quickly and expediently while letting his veneer crack at just the right moments. Eisenberg is, as the film states, "just spastic enough to be charming." As far as plot goes, I'm not big on the bar circuit, so I don't know how implausible it may be for a slickster and his twerpy nephew to be able to lure a Showgirl and a Flashdancer out for a night on the town, but I was able to buy into it because Scott is THAT good, and it's always a pleasure to watch him work.

One thing I will say, though, about the advent of hand-held camerawork that I've noticed lately - they invented steadicam for a reason. Yeah, yeah, you're going for that 'chaotic nightlife/fly-on-the-wall' schtick, I know. Can you achieve that with at least a tripod? Yes, your budget is small, but c'mon... a tripod. Please. I didn't get sick at "Blair Witch" and I was having issues with this one.

Other than that, I would highly recommend this film, because Campbell Scott is putting on an acting clinic. Perhaps Keanu Reeves can be convinced to attend.

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