Roger Dodger (2002)

Reid Said:
September 6, 2004 at 4:58 pm

7 out of 10

6 may be a more accurate rating for me, but Campbell Scott’s performance bumps it up to 7. He’s the main reason this film is worth watching. Scott, plays an advertising writer with keen skills in observation and “Sherlock Holmesian” ability to judge people, particularly woman, on the spot. Unlike the British detective, Roger (Scott) is less than successful in catching his prey.

What makes this character so entertaining is watching Scott demonstrate these abilities with high verbal flair. It’s so over-the-top crass that it’s funny. Think of an Archie Bunker with verbal wit and you get the idea.

(Some small spoilers)

While the writing for Roger and Scott’s performance is first-rate, the film is weak on the story side. Roger’s nephew comes to visit him, and he wants to learn the ways of getting a woman from his playboy uncle. That’s a potentially entertaining premise, and the two get into situations that are somewhat funny, if a bit unbelieveable. (For example, Roger takes his nephew, who’s not really a dashing fellow, to a club, and seems to gain the interest of two adult woman, Elizabeth Berkeley and Jennifer Beals.) The story doesn’t really go anywhere, and the film also doesn’t do a really good job of exploring and revealing the character of Roger.

What we do learn about Roger is that he’s not really a successful ladies man. He’s good looking, has a good job, and has a keen understanding of the psychology of the women he meets. Yet, he’s a total failure in relationships because he’s totally selfish and immature.

His nephew, Nick, makes a good foil for his uncle because he’s everything that his uncle is not. He’s not very articulate (although he seems intelligent) or very good looking. Yet, he’s more sensitive and decent than his uncle.

On the other hand, in terms of maturity maybe Roger is not so far from Nick as it may appear. There’s a good scene where Roger is actually sitting with Nick and his high school friends at a cafeteria table. It’s funny, but placing Roger in this context makes me think that while he’s better looking and more smooth than the teenagers, he’s not much more emotionally mature than they are.

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t explore these dimension of Roger and round out his character a bit more. That’s too bad because he has potential to be an interesting character. For example, we learn that Roger hates his father, and his been avoiding his sister (the mother of his nephew that visits him). How do these details affect who Roger is as a person? What are the other facets of Roger besides the desire to be a ladykller? I don’t think the film does a good job of exploring that. If it did, we would be talking about a really a good film and an award winning performance (although I think Scott’s performance deserve a nomination for best performance).

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