[box cover]

Roger Dodger

Considering that he created the arrogant, bitterly acerbic character of Roger Swanson, it's not surprising that Roger Dodger writer/director Dylan Kidd is best able to sum up the self-important, self-deluded ladies' man. In the commentary track he and cinematographer Joaquin Baca-Asay recorded for Artisan's Roger Dodger DVD, Kidd calls Roger "a human car wreck" — a hyper-educated, incredibly verbal, very successful professional who is utterly incapable of looking within himself in a meaningful way. It's an apt description; as a car wreck attracts rubber-neckers on the freeway, so does Roger (played perfectly by Campbell Scott) suck in anyone who watches Kidd's darkly funny, strikingly original film. A Manhattan ad man who refuses to believe his sophisticated, glamorous friend Joyce (Isabella Rossellini) — who also happens to be his boss — when she says she wants to end their fling, Roger lets his frustration and anger out to play when his 16-year-old nephew Nick (Jesse Eisenberg, older brother of Pepsi munchkin Hallie) shows up out of the blue. Roger decides to take Nick out for the night and teach him the ways of women (the "instructions" scene is a hysterical blur of paranoia, sexism, and Peeping Tom tips) — the goal being for Nick to learn enough that he can seduce one of them into his virginal arms. Things start out promisingly enough when Roger and Nick meet Andrea (Elizabeth Berkeley) and Sophie (Jennifer Beals) in a bar, but as the evening progresses, Roger's hostility increases, and his "jokes" get crueler and cruder, confusing Nick and driving away the very women they both crave. Scott and Eisenberg are both excellent in their roles; indie regular Scott, in particular, has never had a showier, edgier part, and he plays it to the hilt. He takes Kidd's viciously humorous script and makes every line count — and, in perhaps an even stronger display of his talent, he says just as much in the quieter times between his impassioned speeches. Roger may be a successful skirt-chaser who can sum up anyone he meets in a few well-chosen words, but he's also a deeply lonely person who sees a chance at happiness being taken away and can't do anything about it except make a scene. Scott offers some of his own deadpan perspective on the character during the DVD's second commentary track, which he shares with Kidd and Eisenberg — while Kidd's yakker with Baca-Asay has a film-school approach to the movie, the Kidd-Scott-Eisenberg chat is much looser and jokier. Other features include the trailer, "The Player's Guide to Scoring" (textual quotes from Roger's instructions to Nick), one deleted scene, the engaging "New York at Night" featurette (a so-called "walking tour" of the movie's locations, hosted by Eisenberg), a scene-deconstruction featurette, Kidd's introduction to the DVD, and crew interviews. The anamorphic transfer (1.77:1) is strong, and the English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is clear (other options include English and French 2.0 tracks, plus English and Spanish subtitles). Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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