Thursday, August 27, 2009

Movie Log: Roger Dodger

Campbell Scott is one of those actors you recognize from his face rather than from his name; he works a lot -- and he has a type of character he plays regularly -- but he doesn't generally headline movies. Roger Dodger, for whatever reason, is the story of a Campbell Scott character, and he's as caustic and demanding in each one of these hundred-odd minutes as he usually is in his typical three-to-five minute scene in a more normal movie.

Scott is often a petty tyrant, an obstacle in other people's stories; here, his character Roger Swanson is his own obstacle, a full-on prick of an advertising copywriter whose more-hard-boiled-than-thou act long ago hardened into a shell of nasty fast talk surrounding...well, we have no idea, actually. Scott's Roger is a man obsessed with women -- with pulling women, to use the notch-on-the-bedpost term that's most appropriate. Roger doesn't respect women, but, then again, he doesn't respect other men, and he probably doesn't even respect himself.

Roger Dodger is mostly Scott-as-Roger talking his way through a series of long scenes, over the course of two days and nights, as his office affair (with his boss, a very nice-looking Isabella Rosselini) is ended by her unilaterally and his college-bound nephew Nick (Jesse Eisenberg, looking like the pre-coming of Michael Cera in this 2002 movie) turns up to tag along with him.

Roger tries to teach Nick his heartless woman-getting method, which doesn't entirely succeed; it doesn't fit with Nick's puppy-dog demeanor in the first place, of course. Roger's style is predicated on his being an utter bastard, working -- and that style does work pretty often, for whatever reason -- from his hyper-verbalism, his alpha-male assumptions, and his rugged good looks.

I watched Roger Dodger thinking it would fit into the "short and funny" regime. But it's not particularly funny, after the opening scene, and the long scenes make it feel longer than it is. The shaky Steadicam work also adds a layer of tediousness to the movie. There's some interesting stuff here -- Scott is worth watching, and it's nice to see Jennifer Beals as one of the women Roger and Nick try to pick up -- but, in the end, Roger Dodger is the portrait of a prick who doesn't learn better, which is less than enthralling.
Listening to: Hallelujah The Hills - It's All Been Downhill Since The Talkies Started To Sing
via FoxyTunes

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