Roger Dodger (2002)

See kids, this here’s what we call a thinking piece. It’s verbose, intelligent, evenly paced, and all kinds of brilliant, which is why I’m  glad it never got in to the hands of a commercial director, because with tweaking it could have been a very cheesy rip off of “Alfie” in the vein of “Hitch.” “Roger Dodger” is a character study about a womanizer whose principles are always of use to the aspiring lover of all women, while the individual is so sleazy and manipulative that he may soon find himself alone and without a person to love be they a wife or any other family near him. Though Dylan Kidd does demonize the man who approaches women with such disrespect, he also explores that the character Roger isn’t truly a lost cause to society.

Because regardless of what any of us say and how we respond to his practices, we all want to be able to know the right things to say to women. We all want to know how to respond in social situations and read people. Every man wants to know how to integrate himself in to a social situation and find Ms. Right with the ease of picking out the right shirt. Roger may be an amoral prick, but that’s probably because he knows human beings more than any of us. Which is why he’s still alone in the end. “Rodger Dodger” is the film that frowns on the man for knowing women, but also laughs at us because deep down Kidd knows we want to be Roger. Hell, even Roger knows we want to be him; which is why he’s a very sad and miserable man who in spite of it almost practically looks to us with a smile asking “Don’t pretend you’re not jealous.” What man wouldn’t want to go home with the likes of Jennifer Beals or Elizabeth Berkley?

There’s also the moral dilemma that bears the question: In order to be a true ladies man, does the individual have to give away his morals and sell his soul? If the nice guy always finishes last, does that mean the bastard is always the lover of all women? And to that end, is it necessary for us to sell everything good about ourselves in order to grab a piece of tail? If we choose to do so, will we find ourselves alone and truly alienated from actual human beings seeking something more? Roger Swanson is an ad executive who has the woman down pat. He knows their likes and dislikes and often makes them pay when they outright reject him at local bars. He can’t seem to get over a fling with his boss which prompts an emotional breakdown of a sorts until his nephew comes in to town to look for potential colleges to attend and also seek the advice of his uncle. Roger agrees to teach the lad, but is put off when he discovers the young man simply wants to get laid.

This prompts even more conflict when young Nick fully realizes the world his uncle Roger lives in but is not so sure he wants to cash in his chips to be a ladies man. As Nick constantly searches for the middle ground Roger becomes the unrelenting antagonist who works for Nick in his pursuit to flirt with two older women at a bar, but completely emasculates him when he tries to be the nice guy and play for their sympathies. “Roger Dodger” is Campbell Scott’s show as he gives a marvelous performance as this quick talking salesman who treats every woman on the street like a target at a shooting range. He knows their weaknesses, their lifestyles, and even doesn’t mind doing whatever it takes to get what he wants in hopes of proving to Nick that in order to get the woman, you have to trade in your humanity. It’s not always a squeaky clean philosophy he embodies, but he does make some great points, including the fact that sex is everywhere we turn, and you may not always have to be the bastard to get your fill.