Roger Dodger

And he always seemed like such a decent old stick. Actor Campbell Scott has obviously tired of being the soul of decency (see The Spanish Prisoner, Big Night et al) and slips into no-more-mister-nice-guy mode with a vengeance as fork-tongued, womanising New York advertising executive Roger Swanson. This is a guy with a theory on everything, self-confidence to burn, and a permanently diligent eye for the ladies. Is he as much of a suave Lothario as he lets on? Well, his sister’s teenage son Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), in the Big Apple for a college interview, may be about to find out when uncle Rog takes him out on the town to pass on a few tips about the ways of the world.
It’s Scott’s movie all right, and he displays more than a touch of father George C Scott’s abrasive command in reeling out saloon-bar philosophy and cock-of-the-walk invective, though it’s not that long before we can sense the bitterness and desperation between the would-be killer pick-up lines. Neither is it so difficult to figure the direction Dylan Kidd’s sharply-written debut will pursue (tough to imagine the movie endorsing Roger’s bilious worldview after all), but delivering up at least one unforgettable character is no mean feat for a first feature. True, the roving camerawork is too self-conscious at times, but the screenplay has the nous to make master Eisenberg a significant junior partner in the enterprise, wide-eyed innocence masking a tensile inner decency, while an extended nocturnal encounter with hesitantly flirtatious party girls Jennifer Beals and Elizabeth Berkeley is put together with supreme assurance. Still, it’s Scott’s testosterone-fuelled, eternally juvenile spiel you’ll remember: one monologue about the art of covertly ogling girls in the street will have the gents in the audience laughing out loud and squirming with recognition.
(U.S.A., 2002. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 104 ins.)
Plus Paki Smith’s animated short God’s Kitchen, a small culinary disaster movie in which ‘acts of God’ create an insurance nightmare.
(Ireland, 2003. Colour Dolby digital stereo. 102 mins.)

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