Simply put, The End of the Tour is a road trip buddy movie about two men who wouldn’t necessarily choose to be together, but are thrust together for a few days. What makes this story special is that the two men are David Foster Wallace, and David Lipsky, the location is the spare, icy Midwest and their discussions are among some of the most intelligent, funny, raw and honest conversations ever presented on film. Think the intense mood setting prowess of Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation married with the intellectual stimulation of the conversation in My Dinner with Andre.
Not quite a household name, David Foster Wallace is hailed as the brilliant author of numerous essays, short stories, and what is considered the most difficult book to read in the English language, Infinite Jest. This description conjures images of a learned little white man in a corduroy jacket and sensible shoes. Instead DFW hovered at over 6 feet tall, wore his hair long and greasy, tied in a bandana and was known for wearing his boots untied. Despite his academic, writing and personal success, Wallace could never find the peace and balance that he was seeking. He was found dead at his home in 2008. He hung himself-finally having succumbed to the depression and mental illness that plagued him throughout his life.
Stepping into that role was a huge risk for the clownish, comic actor Jason Segel, who is better known for playing with muppets than serious performances. Segel brought an unprecedented depth and humanity to Wallace which ranges for viewers from tearful joy, to a punch in the gut. The subtle respect that he pays to his character is palatable to the viewer. How can a genius choose to see shitty action movies with his friends? How can a man who craves love step away from his female fans who throw themselves at him without looking back? The complexity of his personality matches that of his writing and one of this film’s huge successes is that it doesn’t try to answer these questions, it just shares them with its viewers.
The other man in the film is a journalist for Rolling Stone magazine, David Lipsky, who pitched an idea to write about this up-and-coming author and ends up having one of the most fascinating weekends of his life. Lipsky is played by Jesse Eisenberg whom I usually find unbearably cloying and drab. However, in this film one can feel his acting volley with Segel and their energies and depth builds as their conversations and observations do.
The beauty of The End of the Tour comes partly from the script which is based on Lipsky’s book, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, which is a transcript of their actual conversations. Their time together was recorded on a hand held cassette player so the natural flow of awkward pauses and strange word choices has the organic quality of an authentic experience.
Simply put: this is a film that I plan to revisit many times. It offers viewers an intimate yet un-precious view of some remarkable men who had a remarkable experience together. This film will likely resurface at nomination time for the upcoming awards season for the incredible performances.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Director: John Pondsoldt
Writer: Donald Margulies
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack, Mamie Gummer, Mickey Sumner
Runtime: 106 minutes
Release Date: July 31, 2015 (NY & LA), August 15, 2015 (Houston)
MPAA Rating: R