Directed by Dylan Kidd. USA.  2003.

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Reminiscent of In the Company of Men (1997), Neil La Buteís scathing look at male chauvinism in the workplace, Roger Dodger follows the ego-centric Roger (Campbell Scott), a New York-based advertising man who, when we first meet him, is pontificating about the place of men in modern society.  He sees the male species in the 21st century becoming obsolete because of medical technology that allows women to conceive without the need for men.  Despite his views, Roger has been secretly seeing his boss Joyce, played by Isabella Rossellini, but when she ends their relationship, a wounded Roger, despite his braggadocio, clearly needed her company.  Soon after this, Rogerís teenage nephew Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) turns up in New York to meet his uncle, because he has heard that Roger is a ladies man and that maybe Roger could help him meet some women.  Roger decides to introduce the hormonal teen to his dating techniques and the two of them encounter a variety of women throughout the city.  Although Rogerís teaching is for Nickís benefit, we learn more about Roger and begin to see the cracks form in his self-assured façade.

Dylan Kiddís debut echoes some of Steven Soderberghís and La Buteís films with its painful scrutiny of modern adult relationships.  Roger is so wrapped up in his idea of male independence and the eventual emasculation of men by women that he kills off any chance of forging a lasting relationship with the opposite sex.  Campbell Scott is a revelation as Roger, making the character an arrogant chauvinist one-minute, then a pathetically needy figure the next.  Roger emerges as a sympathetic and almost tragic figure, a man whose warped view of men and women wrecks not only his romantic life, but his work and family relationships as well.  When Roger takes Nick to a bar to demonstrate the successful way to meet women, they end up sharing drinks and frank conversation with Andrea and Sophie, played by Elizabeth Berkley and Jennifer Beals respectively.  Berkley has been derided over the years for her role in Showgirls (1995), but she turns in a sweet performance here as the first women that Roger introduces to Nick.  Beals is also very good, particularly when she shares her a romantic moment and passionate kiss with Nick. 

Like Berkley and Beals, Rosseliniís is also a strong female character, a working woman who, like many men, indulges in casual relationships but isnít judged harshly for it.  The character could have been presented as a cold-hearted bitch who uses men, but this isnít the impression we get.  She almost a maternal figure for Roger, and when he loses her, it severely dents his confidence and, of course, bruises his ego.  When she ends her relationship with Roger, she breaks the news to him as diplomatically as possible, but Roger cannot take the rejection, resulting in Rogerís eventual odyssey through the night-time streets of New York with Nick.  Kidd avoids indulging in an overtly flashy visual style, with one scene (the initial Ďadviceí that Rogerís gives to Nick on the streets as they watch women walk by) simply shown in a lengthy take using a long lens.  We are free to observe Roger and come closer to understanding why he holds the opinions he does.  Tragically for Roger though, he also understands, but is too stubborn to face up to his faults and how these opinions have ruined his life.           

Martyn Bamber
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Material Copyright © 2004 Nigel Watson