August 22nd: Dirty Old Codger

Roger Dodger

173. Roger Dodger (Dylan Kidd, 2002)

Do you remember Campbell Scott? You might not immediately recognise the name but try thinking back to the early 90s, films like the low-key Julia Roberts vehicle Dying Young or Cameron Crowe’s Seattle grunge portmanteau Singles. Scott was that guy. Y’know, that guy. He has the look of the everyman. He can blend in. He’s handsome but not so much that it defines him, there’s an ordinary quality about his face and also about his characters, they are pragmatic and settled. Rarely would he suit extravagance or hyperbole, he just looks dependable. This might be what influenced him to say “there’s an entire subset of people out there who think of me as quite a dull actor. And that’s the word used, and often – dull.” But there is something that lurks in his eyes that hints at darkness, at something hidden that troubles him and it isn’t dull at all. It seems to me that if Christian Bale had decided not to take on the mantle of Patrick Bateman then Scott would have been a superb replacement, there’s just hint of the urban sociopath about him. That’s what makes Roger Dodger such a compelling film.

Scott is Roger Swanson, a smooth talking advertising executive who fancies he can use his mouth to get him into or out of any situation. But when his boss, played with understated class by Isabella Rossellini, decides to end their affair Roger seems unable to cope. Driven by a growing hatred of women Roger uses the unexpected arrival of his 16 year-old nephew, Nick, as an excuse to trawl New York’s bars to school Nick on the ways of seduction. There’s cameo appearances from Jennifer Beals and Elizabeth Berkley both of whom look stunning but no-one can distract from the non-stop invective coming from Roger. He deconstructs everyone and everything with withering contempt as the night slowly unravels and he decides to gatecrash the wrong party.

There is a lot about Roger Dodger that resonates with that other vision of white collar misogyny, The Company of Men. Roger could aspire to Aaron Eckhart’s Chad, if it weren’t for his perceived weakness of actually having feelings fr someone. This film manages to paint a much more convincing picture of a man trapped by his own beliefs, sticking to his woman hating guns despite his own conscience bucking against him. In the end it is Scott’s film, he’s like Robert Downey Jr. but without the sly wink to camera and it’s fantastic to watch.