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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Roger Dodger
Roger Dodger
Artisan // R // March 18, 2003
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted March 19, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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The Movie:

The Oscars will wrap up this coming Sunday and, aside from the talk of who won and who didn't, discussion will likely continue about who deserved a nomination and never got one. One of those individuals is certainly Campbell Scott ("Big Night", Mamet's "Spanish Prisoner"), who has been highly underrated as an actor for years now. "Roger Dodger" stars Scott in a wonderful role as Roger, a fast-talking ad executive ("I sit here and think of ways to make people feel bad.") with philosophies about love and life that he manages to share with pretty much everyone around him.

The film is an entirely dialogue-driven comedy/drama that is fueled by great lines and conversations. There is a mild amount of character development and scenes have impact, but like Mamet, the most entertaining element of the film is the dialogue, most of which is highly memorable. Roger is an icy, but charming individual that currently is smarting over the break-up of an office relationship between he and his boss, Joyce (Isabella Rossellini).

As his day falls apart, his 15 year-old nephew, Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) shows up out-of-nowhere, in town looking at colleges. Although he's supposedly there to learn more about what Roger does, he's more eager to learn about women. Although Roger's fairly uninterested in small talk (and even less about the current state of the family), he starts to take to the idea of becoming a mentor ("It's rocket science, and I'm glad you asked for help.") He's almost broken down romance into equations and fractions of a second. It's really not done him much good at all, yet he's tried to sell it so much (and gotten so good at selling his way of thinking about the subject) he's bought in himself. At a bar, Roger and Nick meet Andrea (Elizabeth Berkley) and Sophie (Jennifer Beals), who are more charmed by Nick than Roger.

Scott manages something impressive with the role - he's able to be remarkably evil, yet he's almost sympathetic, and not as frightening as Aaron Eckhart in "In The Company of Men". Although Dylan Kidd's screenplay gets close, I didn't quite believe that Roger was capable of change. The movie remained entertaining though, simply because Scott - who the movie focuses on - has so much fun being so evil. Newcomer Jesse Eisenberg does well with the dialogue, but the character isn't particularly well-developed, as Roger is the focus. Berkley and Beals are heartwarming as two twenty-somethings who try to steer Nick in the right direction.

Overall, "Roger Dodger" wasn't without a few concerns, but Campbell Scott certainly carries the film with a fierce, darkly funny performance. It's also a terrific debut from writer/director Dylan Kidd, whose dialogue is funny and very enjoyable. I look forward to more from everyone involved.


VIDEO: "Roger Dodger" is presented by Artisan in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Joaquín Baca-Asay's handheld (a little shaky at times, but not too bad) cinematography captures the New York City locations wonderfully. There's strong atmosphere, a good ground-level feel and nice clarity. Artisan's effort presents the film quite well, as the image remains crisp and well-defined throughout. Even some dark scenes offered a respectable amount of visual information.

Some minor edge enhancement is present in some scenes scattered throughout the film. Some may not even find it noticable. Compression artifacts aren't spotted. The print looks awfully good throughout, remaining a speck or two away from perfection. Grain is present at times, but I'd guess that it's simply part of the cinematography.

Colors are very well-saturated throughout, with no smearing or other faults. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked accurate. Artisan has been a fairly inconsistent company at times, but this is awfully nice work that stands up well.

SOUND: "Roger Dodger" is presented by Artisan in Dolby Digital 5.1. For a low-budget comedy/drama, the sound mix is actually quite well-done. Subtle-to-mild ambience is often present in the surrounds, while the music in the nightclub scenes is backed with an appropriate amount of bass. Dialogue also remained perfectly clear throughout. Overall, a very nice sound mix; music, dialogue and ambience shared the listening space well and audio quality remained clear and fairly dyanmic.

EXTRAS: The DVD offers an intro to the Special Features section from director Dylan Kidd, as well as a wealth of other supplements.

Commentaries: The DVD includes two commentaries: one with writer/director Dylan Kidd and cinematographer Joaquín Baca-Asay and another with Kidd, actor Campbell Scott and actor Jesse Eisenberg. The commentary with the director and the cinematographer is mainly technical - as the director announces early on the track, a "film school in a box" effort. While the track is very technical, it's still very engaging. Kidd and Baca-Asay break down the scene in an organized and energetic fashion, talking about camerawork, production issues and performances. The other track is a bit more jokey and informal, as the two actors and director discuss stories from the set, make a few jokes and chat about their characters.

Composer and the Mixer: This 7-minute feature offers a discussion with the film's mixer and composer. The two discuss how the film used the music to set tone and how originally, director Kidd questioned whether or not to use music at all. It was also interesting to hear about concepts for the music and inspirations for the score.

The Producer: This is a brief interview with director Dylan Kidd's producing partner, who gives a short overview of her thoughts on making an indie feature.

Exec Producer and the Director: This interview features the film's executive producer and director Dylan Kidd, who provide a back-and-forth discussion of topics such as casting and the look of the film.

Examination of A Scene: This 13-minute featurette offers interviews from the location manager, production designer and others, who discuss the film's main club scene where Roger and Nick meet the two women. This isn't a terribly in-depth exploration of this particular scene - like the other featurettes, it's more a matter of meeting a lot of people involved in making the film and generally finding out what they were responsible for on a day-to-day basis. The only thing I felt was odd about these featurettes was the extreme close-ups sometimes used during interviews.

Roger Dodger: A Walking Tour: This is a short featurette where star Jesse Eisenberg takes the viewer through the various locations in the film.

Also: The film's theatrical trailer and a deleted scene.

Final Thoughts: Campbell Scott's fierce, sharp performance carries "Roger Dodger" wonderfully. Not only does Scott offer an award-worthy performance, but director/writer Dylan Kidd makes a debut that definitely doesn't seem like a first film. It's not perfect - I didn't quite buy the transition at the end - but I definitely found it to be a very entertaining film. Artisan has provided a superb DVD, with plenty of supplements and strong audio/video quality. Definitely recommended for those looking for an intelligent, rather dark comedy.

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