"Sex is everywhere," Campbell Scott's Roger Swanson lectures his virginal teen-age nephew Nick in Roger Dodger. "You have to find the zone. ... I'm like a f--king lighting rod."
And so the hunt begins, with Swanson -- a self-anointed ladies' man -- schooling his visiting relative on how to pick up women. The problem is, Roger is a pig, and while he's incredible at reducing women to their bare essence, we doubt if his routine actually works. Roger is an ad-copy writer who apparently knows how to tap into people's insecurities -- "You can't sell a product without first making people feel bad," he says of his job -- but he doesn't really know what to do with his insights.
Roger is a combination of shark and dinosaur; he sees the future demise of his gender in the evolutionary cycle. But he just keeps trudging through the waters of New York City's nightlife, his life -- smoking, drinking, eating and searching for his next meal more out of habit than desire. Scott, who has tapped into similarly cynical roles with the New Orleans-shot Lush and even The Daytrippers, delivers the kind of unflinching performance that deserves but rarely gets an Oscar nomination. As his foil, Jesse Eisenberg is all awkwardness and innocence, particularly in a set piece midway through the movie, with two potentially willing babes (Jennifer Beals and Elizabeth Berkley, who have never been better).
Writer-director Dylan Kidd's debut film is about the narcissism and nihilism of the self-delusional swinger, and while it's hilarious and cutting, it's ultimately a sober look at a soulless person completely devoid of introspection. Gratefully, Kidd's not into morality tales. Rather, he's more content to show Roger passing on his knowledge to his willing pupil Nick, who alternately marvels at his uncle's pearls of sexual wisdom and is completely turned off by how that wisdom is put into practice.
- Look, listen and learn: Roger (Campbell Scott) teaches the facts of life to his nephew Nick in the hilarious Roger Dodger.