A review of “Roger Dodger” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for language, dimly lit nudity

Run Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

 

 

A critic friend of mine insists that “Rodger Dodger” will be this season’s indie darling.  For all the right reasons, I have to agree.

Campbell Scott chews up the scenery as Roger, an arrogant, verbally gifted ad exec who prides himself on his finely-tuned instincts regarding the art of bedding women.  With snappy wit, Roger holds forth on procreation, natural selection, and accumulating female trophies, spewing such go-team bon mots as “champions refuse to lose” and “make sex a presence in your spirit”. 

Hot on the heels of a salacious slight from his elegant boss Joyce (a radiant Isabella Rossellini), Roger comes face-to-face with an unwelcome visitor – his 16-year old nephew Nick (Jesse Eisenberg).  Nick is in town to research colleges, but hopes to utilize his uncle’s vast breadth of knowledge to land himself a girlfriend.

Tutoring Nick in the ways of the softer sex is just the distraction Roger needs.  With the dark, smoky clubs of NYC as their canvas, Roger and Nick set out to paint the town red.  Roger’s judicious instruction ranges from the pragmatic (“anticipate opportunities”) to the practical pleasure of observation (“free yourself from the tyranny of eye level”).  The alliance benefits both – satisfying Roger’s thirst for a rapt audience, and Nick’s adolescent desire to score.

Campbell Scott’s performance is the stuff of awards. Amusing, contemptuous, and thoroughly misogynistic, his Roger is a skirmish of false bravado born of fear and rejection. Writer/director (and NYU film school upstart) Dylan Kidd maintains dark, claustrophobic control over his material, shooting with a jerky, hand-held style that complements Roger’s assertive philosophies. His script is whip-smart and agreeably fast-paced. Manhattan nightlife lends an aura all its own –sexually playful and blackly menacing.  Bravo, Mr. Kidd.