Friday, November 01, 2002

Roger Dodger (IMDB) (Netflix)
Roger Swanson (played by George C. Scott's son Campbell) is an ostentatiously articulate ad copy writer with a utilitarian view of relationships (as does the woman in his life) who suffers a blow to his self-esteem. Fortunately, his 16-year-old-nephew Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) shows up looking for advice on meeting the ladies, and Roger can't resist the opportunity to mold Nick to his cynical world view, taking him on a one-night post-doc seduction seminar through the New York City singles scene.

There was a recent indie film on the same topic that demonstrated the pitfalls of this sub-genre and never got out of the one town it opened in, but "Roger" shows that you can teach an old premise new tricks. Eisenberg manages to be simultaneously naive, desperate and charming, and Scott is misogynist, tour guide, performance coach and evolutionary psychologist all rolled into one very entertaining and forceful package. The women (Isabella Rossellini, Jennifer Beals and Elizabeth Berkley, among others) are neither victims or saints, and manage to pull off some tricky sequences with grace. I could have done without the dim lighting and poorly color-balanced photography, but these are minor flaws in a gem that cuts darkly comic glass.

Those who liked "Igby Goes Down" should also enjoy "Roger."