Monday, February 1, 2010

"Roger Dodger": people that work in advertising are lonely a-holes

Are you ready for an obscenely obvious observation? Relationships, they say, aren't easy. If they were, we would lose the basis for most music, books, plays, movies, television, and Dr. Phil.

If only we all had someone that knew the ins and outs of relating to one another, and that was willing to impart their hard-earned knowledge on us. We'd have certainly have a leg up on navigating the tables of the high school cafeteria, that's for damn sure.

That, in a nutshell, is the premise of writer-director Dylan Kidd's debut film, 2002's "Roger Dodger". Jesse Eisenberg, in his breakout role, plays Nick, a high schooler that can't for the life of him figure out how to talk to the ladies. He seeks out the advice of his uncle Roger, played by veteran character actor, and George C. Scott's son, Campbell Scott. Roger is a copywriter in New York City that has the uncanny ability to shake things down to their essence. This ability not only makes him a keen observer of human behavior, and thus adept at smooth-talking, but the relish with which he breaks people down is his Achilles' Heel.

Regardless of whether his skills ultimately get Roger what he wants (namely, a romantic partner out of his boss, the wonderful Isabella Rossellini, perhaps best known to you as Jack Donaghey's ex-wife on "30 Rock"), he has a lot of simple tips that would seem like splitting the atom to a high school kid. Take, for example, his first tirade of advice he imparts on his nephew (sadly, I'm unable to embed the video).

As their wild night on the town continues, Roger takes more and more drastic measures to teach Nick how to 'get' with women. It becomes increasingly apparent that for all his powers of observation, Roger is just as inept at figuring out human relationships as is anyone else.

"Roger Dodger" is a day in the life of a Lothario that is one hell of a lot of fun to hate. It's fast-paced, intelligently told, and well-acted; it's perhaps the only movie you'll ever see where you'll root for the awkward teen hero to fail.

TOO MUCH: Xylophone in the electro-rock soundtrack. Mild pedophilia from costars Elizabeth Berkley and Jennifer Beals, although to their credit, they make it not entirely disturbing.

COULD HAVE USED MORE: Tripods - this movie was handheld years before the Bourne sequels brought the Blair Witch look back into vogue. The counter argument to this is that it would rob the only non-handheld shot in the NY portion of the film of its emotional impact.

FILM SNOB NOTE: Ben Shenkman, "Donovan", makes appearances in various David Wain projects.

IHYFM RATING: FOUR out of FIVE MEHS. It's smart, funny, and well-made, but it's just a little too long.

IF YOU SAID THIS WAS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE, I'D THINK: If you're a guy, you'd make a great wingman, and probably a lousy husband.

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