Roger puts on his best clothes and shows up ludicrously mincing on his date with Beth, where he is the only who seems to remember the important moments of their romance. But she's not impressed by his rambling speech where he randomly talks about mattresses, shrinks, his new career (he chose carpentry), and he asks her for another date, which she declines, visibly alarmed.
Roger Greenberg makes a list for Florence to shop with two essential items: whiskey and ice cream sandwiches. In his essay "The Great Rememberer," Allen Ginsberg refers to the scene in Visions of Cody and implies a connection between Kerouac's retreat into alcohol and his inability to accept love in general. Martin Duberman's play Visions of Kerouac makes a similar point describing Kerouac as trapped in "lumberjack tears... a buried and bereft American man."
Impervious to some of Florence's affectionate advances, Greenberg gives her a mix CD because his heart resists acknowledging romantic feelings, making her feel vulnerable. Their relationship is manifestly painful, but Baumbach represents it in a dark, quirky light, putting a humorous spin on it.
Stiller's jocular genius lies in the low-key performance which he favors over dramatic pathos, accentuating his character's shadows and moral warts. When he gets high (with Zoloft and coke, although Roger says he hates the coke politically) at his step-niece Sara's (Brie Larson) party in the company of her Australian friend Muriel (Juno Temple) he takes on a modern bunch of detached hipster kids and we can feel he's shut off from the Internet sex trends and the iPod generation and their "blithe air." Roger accuses all of them of insensitivity and horrifying confidence ("I hope I die before I meet one of you in a job interview").
Stiller balances empathy and necessary coldness in his performance, which is more than meets the eye, as is proven in an intimidating scene when there is a dead animal floating on the swimming pool at his brother's house, similar to an opossum (these small omnivores can mimic the appearance of a sick or dead animal; many injured opossums have been killed mistaken for dead). Roger's psychological response is involuntary when the eye of the rat/opossum stares back at him. That's another fitting metaphor from Baumbach in an already disturbing story.
I feel like a possum in every way
Like a possum
My mind's amiss, I've lost the kiss
My smile is leaden, my gait is rubber
And I say as one possum to another
Like a possum. — Lou Reed, "Like a Possum"
Is Roger just a guy with good intentions (as Stiller thought of his scripted character) beneath a cynical exterior, a 21st century's new type of anti-hero perhaps? “I think it’s a really noble struggle,” he said to the New York Times, “imperfect people trying to get through every day of their lives.”