Roger is an emotional abuser who doesn't identify as the abuser (he internalizes his panic and he sees himself more as the abused by a mimetic "preening" society) of the few people who can stand his sour company, staying in a permanent waylaid state, picking at their failures in life without compassion at the moment. Then he usually feels guilty about his mistreatment but the audience starts to see it could be too late for him to realize and stop his aggression before he ends up completely alone in an inevitable downfall.
Thinking about it, even the humor (the source of Stiller's mainstream fame) is typically aggressive and even conveniently misanthropic. On his 41st birthday Roger blurts out "Life is wasted on people," and minutes later he impulsively invites Florence to a restaurant. When she shows up, Roger immediately leaves the table to telephone his old girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Jason-Leigh) to ask her for a date.
Florence, an aspiring singer who performs for sparse audiences in small clubs, is happy to meet Roger's bandmate Ivan and listen to tales of their defunct group Magic Marker. It was Roger's decision to not sign a promising record contract which would probably have catapulted the band to a moderate commercial stardom, but Roger's stubbornness and mistrust stalled the deal. And that controversial decision has haunted him for excruciatingly long years.
Candy says I hate the big decisions
That cause endless revisions in my mind. — Lou Reed, "Candy Says"
Here Stiller (whose physical appearance gives us a whiff of rock star Lou Reed) looks very emaciated and disillusioned, a self-proclaimed vigilante of good customer service (penning petty letters to American Airlines, Starbucks, and the New York Times), fighting his imaginary cause against a corporate identity whom he identifies as a viral threat. Between raging protest letters he finds time to take care of Mahler, a German shepherd in need of medication for an autoimmune disorder.
Roger is addicted to using cherry-flavored ChapStick and he only has one real friend, Ivan (Rhys Ifans), who feels trapped in a new occupation as computer technician and is estranged from the Portuguese wife with whom he has a son. Roger acts nonchalantly toward Ivan's domestic vicissitudes because maybe he thinks he's keeping from falling down into the same mediocrity hole as his buddy. His interactions with Ivan are frustrating, their conversations resultingly loopy. Ivan will complain they never talk about good things or help each other.
Roger: I feel like I have those glasses from that John Carpenter movie and I can see who these people really are.
Ivan: That wasn't bad, that movie.
Roger: I thought it was terrible.
Ivan is an ex-stoner, cutting down on his old vices, and prefers iced tea over Scotch these days. He's needy and resentful about the past, but he's ready to "embrace the life you never planned on."