Thirtyish year old Roger is a single man living in New York City. He"s an advertising copywriter whose job description, according to him, is to "think up ways to make people feel bad ... Consumers need reminding just how fat and unattractive they are." Roger (Campbell Scott) is born to the job because when he clocks out, it"s a smooth transition to wield the same weapons in the bars and clubs of NYC. His targets are women, and he"ll regale any gal with his stunning intellect, only to rip them with a horrid, hateful remark. Boy, can he talk. One wonders if writer/director Dylan Kidd based Roger Dodger on a monologue or a stand-up comedy act, because the film belongs to Roger and his pontifications on sexual politics, genetics and evolution. Guess what? This misanthrope is lonely. And so early on, Roger Dodger takes on the shape of In the Company of Men crossed with Shampoo. But when Roger"s sixteen year old nephew Nick shows up, unannounced, hoping to learn the ways & wiles of lady-killing, we have to add a Star Wars element: Roger is Obi-Wan to Nick"s Luke Skywalker. Okay, I"m mashing all this together to let you know Roger Dodger is a very funny film. It"s horrifying and it"s disturbing, but once you"ve caught the drift of Roger"s schtick, all you can do is laugh - given that it"s impossible to walk through the screen and hand him your therapist"s business card - or, if you"d rather, punch him. The NYC adventure begins, blowhard uncle and innocent nephew, slipping in and out bars, taxi cabs and conversations with women, including a significant scene with Jennifer Beals and Elizabeth Berkley. Throughout, the dialogue is crisp, surprising and cracks open little windows of sad understanding into Roger"s fractured psyche. Nick (an impressive Jesse Eisenberg) is a willing student, though he can"t help but sometimes - contrary to the Teachings of Roger Dodger - tell the truth. Also starring is the always enjoyable Isabella Rossellini, and note that Indy-native Chris Stack, son of Christopher and Ann Stack, has a small but significant role as one of Roger"s co-workers. Ultimately, Roger is In the Company of Man. One man. Campbell Scott is extraordinary at engaging our antipathy while providing a secret vein of sadness. Roger Dodger reminds us that every time you scratch the surface of a narcissist, you find self-loathing.
Jim Poyser is Executive Director of Earth Charter Indiana, a statewide organization that was one of over two dozen nonprofit partners in Greening the Statehouse. A former managing editor of NUVO, he won HEC’s Environmentalist of the Year Award in 2013.