Review: The End of the Tour
An intimate study of a genius who never quite understood just how important he was, The End of the Tour is simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming, as alongside David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg), we get a shimmer of insight into the mind of David Foster Wallace- how he lives his life, and how he sees himself.
James Ponsoldt adapts David Lipsky’s biography of sorts- about a weekend that he spent interviewing David Foster Wallace, one of America’s most revered authors, who at the time that the film and interview take place, is on a book tour for his masterpiece and 1079 page-long, Infinite Jest. Jason Segel steps into the complex role, which makes Dave Wallace seem so ordinary it hurts- he projects this quality of being an everyman, no one particularly special, a man filled with insecurity and a dark past, who suddenly finds himself in a position where he’s the most talked about man in America. It’s easy to view David through the eyes of Lipsky, who as portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg is a man who is clearly intimidated and probably jealous of Wallace, he himself being an author who could only dream of the success currently facing the acclaimed author- he’s even upset when his girlfriend talks too long to Wallace on the phone. Viewing David Foster Wallace through the perspective of David Lipsky is especially interesting- because there is an air of unease and distrust- as their relationship progresses, Lipsky becomes more weary of Wallace- is this guy as ordinary as he seems or is he actually condescending and trying to play the “role” of a normal person- because clearly someone as talented as Wallace simply couldn’t be the same guy you go see a shitty action movie with.
But that’s where The End of the Tour challenges the viewer, it takes us along on this ride- getting a small dose of what it’s like to be with David Foster Wallace; and it continually makes you unsure if this persona is a facade, or if Lipsky is getting a true version of David Foster Wallace. Jason Segel, whose casting was a surprise for many, is truly a revelation as David Foster Wallace. He is easily the most charming and investing screen character at the movies this year- making it harder to accept that this real life person committed suicide in 2008, and that we’re watching this now and getting to know the man who never saw as much in himself- or perhaps saw too much in himself-when many of us didn’t have the chance to appreciate him while he was alive.
It’s a wonderful pairing of characters, and two actors who give stellar performances and have a wonderful chemistry- their time together goes from extremely friendly to high-tension constantly throughout. The film is dialogue heavy and partly because of this, is super authentic. There’s Lipsky, a Rolling Stone reporter who has the task of writing a profile of Wallace, who has his own insecurities and who feels inferior for the duration of the film, while still trying to own the fact that he’s got a lot going for himself- and there’s Wallace, who is simply obsessed with how he’s going to come off in the article, and stressfully concerned in general about the way the public views him. Both men have their own problems, and seeing them be both friends and feel like they are at odds with each other makes for a wonderful arc to the weekend they spend together.
The End of the Tour is a quiet but profound film, it’s not quite a biopic, but it tells a story and gives a deep insight into two very similar men on this one special occasion where they had the opportunity to meet and to bond. You’ll leave the theatre feeling dazzled by David Foster Wallace, whose modesty-false or not, (but probably not), is alarming but extremely human. The chance to spend these few days with him by watching this movie make for the best experience you may have at the movies this year- it might even motivate you to start page 1 of 1079- as you’ll definitely want to get to know his works after getting to know him- an everyday man who was not ordinary at all.