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Culture Reviews
Roger Dodger
Kronwerk Cinema MDM 
By Dena May Fisher
Capable of verbally wriggling his way out of any situation, Roger Swanson (aptly nicknamed ‘Roger Dodger’) is a fast-talking, witty, highly intelligent wreck of a man who seems to think of himself as God’s ultimate gift to women. Yet Roger’s arrogant, jaded, reductionist view of the world reveals a lonely soul, whose apparent contempt for women is merely a fa?ade behind which his own insecurities can be hidden. Recently ‘dumped’ by his lover (who also happens to be his boss!) Roger is particularly bitter – not the kind of man you would want to take you on an intensive dating course for beginners! When his sixteen year old nephew Nick arrives in New York and asks him to do precisely that, Roger sees it as a perfect opportunity to re-inflate his ego, while young Nick desperately tries to lose his virginity. We witness the highs and lows of a night on the town in the company of two men with just one thing on their mind…

Dylan Kidd’s writing and directorial debut has provided us with a rare gem of a film: Roger Dodger is an unusual triumph, a refreshing amalgamation of a beautifully simple plot brought to life by well-played, well-developed characters, who skillfully deliver a clever and razor-sharp script. Shaky, hand-held cameras create a voyeuristic atmosphere in which the spectators feel they are spying on the action, to a degree that should have Woody Allen looking on with respect. This element of intimacy is taken even further however, as the audience becomes engaged in the thought processes and joins in the battle with the arguments, theories and so-called truths which the characters manage to construct or bring crashing down in accordance with the (varying!) levels of their morals.

Cambell Scott captures Roger’s essence to perfection: He portrays a repulsive character, yet manages to add an element of pathos in the underlying, unspoken presence of Roger’s insecurities. Although we would hate to meet a Roger in real life, we are somehow drawn to allowing him a certain amount of forgiveness, as we realise that his good looks, intellect and impressive wit could add up to an altogether more attractive package, if put to better use. It is said that the film only came into being after a chance encounter in a restaurant, during which Kidd gave Scott the script in the hope that he would read it. Not only did Scott read it, he ended up starring in and co-producing the film. The relish with which he assumed the project is obvious…and indeed, a pleasure to watch.

We must not underestimate, however, the talent of the young Jesse Eisenberg who plays Roger’s teenage nephew, Nick. This is another difficult role, brilliantly mastered: Angst, anxiety, naivety and youthful wisdom are all part of the course as we accompany Nick on his unusually testing voyage of discovery. Eisenberg covers a whole range of emotions in a role which must be (well, one would imagine…) very close to his heart. That mix of genuine talent and real emotion creates a believable character with which, if we look back to our own sex-obsessed adolescence, we can all relate!

And the female characters, well-written and beautifully played, are a satisfying counter- balance to the male psyches. The women (Isabella Rosselini, Elizabeth Berkley and Jennifer Beals) despite their secondary roles provide valuable insights into the misgivings and truths of the weird and wonderful ways in which the female mind works! The result is a more truthful lesson for the youngster Nick, but also an on-screen presence of the other half of the battle between the sexes. As far as the audience is concerned, this means there is something there for everybody: Male or female, single or attached, a great cynic or a true romantic, there will be someone you can relate to, and a few more recognisable issues than you’d like to admit to!

Roger Dodger refrains from using any of the usual crowd-pleasing techniques: There are no special effects, no explicit sex scenes (despite the subject matter!) no gun fights or high-speed car chases… but it’s 90 minutes of absolutely great cinematography, with real acting and a great script. You’ll either absolutely love or hate the ending! But for sure, it’s a brave and a rare film. Let’s just hope that Dylan Scott’s debut is a sign of things to come…

01.07.04
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