Keep Fooling Yourself: The Films of Dylan Kidd
Somehow, despite being made by a first time filmmaker in love with his own dialogue and with a tendency to smear sentimentality in where it shouldn’t be, Dylan Kidd’s Roger Dodger is one of the better low profile studio/independent films of the decade. Campbell Scott, though he is given all the best lines as a slick Ad man, doesn’t need to pick up the slack from his co-star Jesse Eisenberg, playing his teenage nephew, out in NYC to learn about sex from him. The movie is dark, caustic, very funny, and is the only known evidence that Elizabeth Berkley can actually act.
His second film, P.S. was released in October 2004, within a few weeks of the very similar Birth. While the Nicole Kidman vehicle is more gothic horror/satire in the Rosemary’s Baby vein, P.S., also about a possibly reincarnated lover coming into a woman’s life many years later, but piquing her interest in various ways to rekindle the feeling once again, P.S. is drama mixed with the absurd comedy inherent in a situation where the characters realize how ridiculous it is. Like the best two films of 2004, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Oldboy, P.S. (as well as Birth) deals with whether it is worth consciously repeating a past relationship and all the problems that come with it just for the moments that you savor in your mind. P.S. is very different in the way it handles the issue though. The Laura Linney character, who works at admissions at Columbia University, sees how insane it is that she is throwing herself at a 22 year old who she believes is a reincarnation of a boyfriend she had as a teenager. This is helped by having him be played by Topher Grace, who is so evocative and believable, even self-mocking when he needs to be. There are scenes where he tries to be sympathetic to her current problems (unaware of her past and why she is drawn to him), and does it in such a condescending fashion, hilariously misreading her pain/lust. It is a perfect impression of a naive college student, thinking he understands the world, but really without a clue. Linney looks at him with incredulity, too enamored of her past to make him look foolish. With P.S. and In Good Company (which, because it was so mediocre, made him stand out more, though he gave a very different performance than in P.S.), Grace showed that he was the best mid 20’s actor working in Hollywood at the time.
Gabriel Byrne, who plays Linney’s close friend and ex-husband, obviously has dyed his grey hair black too many times, and it appears that there is actual paint in his hair. But his new, aged look works with this, since his character is so vain and thoughtless, it might have even been a deliberate choice. Marcia Gay Harden plays Linney’s slutty best friend, and damned if she isn’t completely frightening looking while trying to be sexy, pig nose not helping the cause. Like with Byrne, this fits within the film and the small nature of it overall, which suggests that it perhaps was on purpose, and not a star trying to look glamorous and failing. What is distinctive about both of Kidd’s films is that, even though they have rather soft endings, they remain intelligent all the way through, never insulting the audience, even if he never strays too far from coming-of-age genre trappings.
*Unfortunately, Kidd hasn’t made a movie since 2004.