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BERLIN (Reuters) - Keanu Reeves plays a young, tattooed shop assistant who turns the suburban world of his quiet neighbor upside down in Rebecca Miller's new film "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee."
Pippa Lee, played by Robin Wright Penn, has just moved to a retirement community with her successful publisher husband Herb, a man 30 years her senior where her life revolves around serving perfectly cooked lamb and decorating her home.
But as she befriends aging neighbors and enrols in a pottery class with women old enough to be her mother, she starts to question her role as respectable mother, wife and hostess.
The arrival of Reeves' character Chris, an unkempt 35-year-old who drives a beaten-up van and sports a giant Jesus tattoo on his chest, brings her angst into focus.
"Chris is part of her dream," Reeves told reporters at the Berlin film festival, where the film -- which also features Monica Bellucci, Winona Ryder, Julianne Moore and Alan Arkin as Lee's husband Herb -- screened this week.
"In this film, freedom means the possibility to experience yourself... to go find yourself," said Reeves, who appeared on the red carpet in Berlin with a full beard.
Asked whether he preferred the beard to the Jesus tattoo of the film, he told Reuters, "Probably the beard is going to win."
Reeves said he had not been able to refuse when Miller, the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller, had asked him to be in the film, based on her novel of the same name.
Supporting actress Zoe Kazan, whose grandfather, director Elia Kazan, used to work with Arthur Miller, told Reuters, "It does have a special significance as my grandfather and her father were real comrades for a while and collaborators. So it meant a lot to me to be able to work with her on that note."
Wright Penn called the strong female cast "a blessing," saying, "We waited a year to do this movie because we didn't have the actors. We just didn't have anybody that was absolutely right for it, no one would sign on. So patience is the virtue."
In her film, Miller takes viewers from Lee's life as a wife to her childhood and adolescence, letting them witness Lee's own disbelief at the traumas she has hidden inside.
The film is Miller's follow-up to "The Ballad of Jack and Rose," which showed in Berlin in 2005 and starred her husband Daniel Day-Lewis. Asked about the similarities between Lewis and Reeves, Miller chuckled and said, "They are both very committed and talented actors. And very different."
Additional reporting by Mike Davidson; Editing by Louise Ireland