This movie is excellent. This movie is also excruciating. This raw and edgy filmmaking that makes you laugh and wince at the same time. While watching this movie, you have this desire to escape the situation but can’t help but to see what happens next.
This is the story of Roger (Campbell Scott), an advertising writer with an incomparable wit and abundant ego. Roger is that type of guy that we all know (and secretly think we want to be). He can talk his way into (and out of) any situation and into any woman’s bedroom. At least, we men think he can. However, after being dumped by his boss/lover Joyce (Isabella Rossellini) and a visit from his lovelorn nephew Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), Roger’s bachelor lifestyle turns into a nightmare.
This is above all else, a conversation film. With little in the way of external plot devices, this movie relies on the dialog of the script and the performances of its actors to succeed. In this aspect, this movie soars above any movie I’ve seen this year. The script, written by the debut director Dylan Kidd, flows along and breakneck speed delivering line after line of witty, hard-hitting and cynical dialog and the performances of these lines keep you enthralled with the film.
Campbell Scott (Long Time Companion, Singles, Big Night) escapes from his usual charming characters and takes on the role of Roger with relish. This is truly great acting. There is no pretense or use of cheap theatrical tricks in this performance. He can bridge the contradictions of a charming smile and a soul of hate with out missing a beat. This is without a doubt his best performance to date.
Young actor Jesse Eisenberg plays the 16-year-old nephew Nick superbly. The terror in his eyes during his long night of sexual discovery is perfect. His fumbling words and nervous body language is well executed and very believable. There is a scene in a bedroom with a very drunk and available woman where he particularly distinguishes himself. He, like Campbell Scott is able to show the characters inner conflicts, fighting between sexual desire and moral rectitude.
The female side of the cast is equally good. Isabella Rossellini (Immortal Beloved, Big Night) continues to prove her acting might as the tough and sexually free employer. Surprisingly, Elizabeth Berkley (Showgirls) shows that she actually can act leaving me to believe she just has bad judgment in her choice of parts. Finally, Jennifer Beals (Flashdance) is wonderfully desirable and human.
The film making style is definitely hard-core art school. Shot almost entirely on hand held cameras, this film has a definite documentary feel. The lighting is natural and the attention to detail is astounding. Keep a close eye of the short tight shots of hands and feet. They draw you into the characters internal workings. Occasionally, the shots can seem a bit contrived, but none of them takes away from the story.
There is very little to criticize about this film, but this is not a perfect film and for only one reason. The ending to this film seems tacked on to give some unneeded resolution to the long night in which this film primarily takes place. It feels like it was added after some unfavorable initial screenings and if so proves why committee based filmmaking is a horrible idea.
However, despite the film’s sole flaw, this film is driven by the classic Roger. The character of Roger may be one of the hardest to classify. Simply put, this man is an asshole of the first order. I would be hard pressed to find any redeeming qualities about this man at all. However, despite the fact that everything he says and does is despicable, you still like him. The reason you like him is that the only reason he is an asshole is that everything he says is a little too close to the mark. He sees the hypocrisy of the world of love and relishes in it. He says everything that you know to be true but would never admit. He knows not only the rules of the game but also that it is a game and accepts all of the consequences of it. I can say with great confidence, that this is truly one of the best characters in modern film.
This is hard film to watch, but a great work of art.