Roger Dodger

Dir. Kidd

Opens Fri Nov 15

Cinema 21

Pontification movies are only good if you care about the characters. Richard Linklater's movies (Tape, Waking Life), for example, bore me to tears. His characters seem to serve merely as demonstrations of Psychology 101--and they never, ever stop talking. While Roger Dodger director Dylan Kidd has, likewise, created a talk-heavy personality study, the depth and dynamic of the main character saves the film.

Played hyper-actively by Campbell Scott, Roger is a top-notch New York ad writer and womanizer, but underneath it all, a lonely guy. Roger spends a great deal of his time talking to women at bars, often jerkily typecasting them to their faces, saying things like, "Sleeping with your supervisor won't make your father accept you," and, "You've obviously been in a series of abusive relationships, and with a recent dose of therapy, you think you're ready for marriage." It's unclear how much female action Roger actually gets (maybe far less than he implies), but his aggressive interaction style makes him compelling regardless.

The film catalogues a change in Roger that takes place when his nephew, Nick, shows up in the city. Nick is a 16-year-old virgin and comes to visit Roger because he's heard about his reputation as a ladies man. Roger reluctantly accepts the job of showing Nick the ropes, but quickly starts taking his teaching very seriously, bombarding Nick with tricks and information regarding women. After a few hours, a few drinks, and some tangible advice, Nick seems to be doing better with the ladies than Roger.

The charm of the film lies in the subtle changes Roger and Nick go through because of their interactions with each other. Roger attempts to corrupt Nick, Nick attempts to soften Roger up, they reach a catharsis and afterwards, realize that each person can learn things from the other. In the end, Roger Dodger manages to be poignant and thoughtful without being a giant talk-talk diatribe or a heartwarming story of growing up.