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When I first heard that a movie called The End of The Tour was in the works about American author, David Foster Wallace, I was very cynical. When I found out that Jason Segel was being cast as the recently deceased literary genius, my worries were not alleviated. With Segel being paired with Jesse Eisenberg as David Lipsky, I was bracing myself for disaster considering the dissonance of their personalities.
The tour referenced in the title refers to how the film tells the story of the five-day interview Lipsky did with Wallace for Rolling Stone at the peak of Wallace’s career, following the publication of his novel, Infinite Jest. The interview between the two strangers morphs into a sort of lengthy first date, where the two discuss the ups and downs of life, and attempt to find truth in each other and themselves. Lipsky turned this interview into a memoir in 2010, after it wasn’t featured in Rolling Stone in 2006 as intended. The memoir in turn inspired the making of The End of the Tour.
After avoiding it for some time, I finally gave into my curiosity and watched the movie. Running one hour and 46 minutes, the movie was long, but it rewarded those who stuck with it until the end with a hefty dose of inspiration and much to ponder. The movie echoes what Lipsky did in his own book, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, in its heavy reliance on using Wallace’s own quotes, rather than trying to speak for him. There is, of course, the other aspect of speaking on his behalf, with the film crew being left to devise their own interpretation of Wallace’s actions, behaviours, speech patterns, but they do so with care. There was nothing outlandish about Segel’s portrayal of Wallace, and that has to be respected.
There was one part, however, that was a little off-putting. About three-fourths of the way through, conversation between the two men felt rushed — it seemed as though they were trying to jam in as many quotes as they could before their time ran out. The shift starts just after a tense moment of jealousy between the two men over a woman. This inspires a heated conversation in Wallace’s living room, and continues into the night, when Wallace enters Lipsky’s bedroom to ask if he’s awake. Given that Lipsky is, and he says so, Wallace stands in the doorway and spouts lines about depression and an over-analysis of the self. It seemed like they needed to invent more ways and places for the two to converse, and this is just an attempt at a new, creative setting. The slate is wiped clean between the two in the morning after Lipsky tearfully writes down notes from what Wallace had said that night.
The movie largely focuses on the secondary character, Lipsky, almost making him the main character. Eisenberg is essentially used as a vehicle to express Wallace’s ideas, to be a prompt. The focus on Lipsky is also an attempt to talk about what it’s like to meet and talk with someone you admire, a mentor of sorts. Lipsky expresses his own feelings of inadequacy and adoration for Wallace, through both saying it and directing a prolonged, mesmerized look at him. This tactic makes the movie more palpable and accessible to an audience, where you can find some of yourself in the Lipsky character. The sentiments quoted in this film are universal. It’s a truly pleasurable experience consuming something that resonates with you, and this film fits easily into that category.
I could not rave about this film enough. Both Segel and Eisenberg deliver performances that echo two great men in a way that is poignant and memorable — I was wrong about my initial objection about their casting. I would easily recommend this movie to both fans of David Foster Wallace and strangers to his incredible written works. At the very least, The End of The Tour brings viewers into the world of a brilliant writer where they can find the little sparks of life that still keep Wallace alive in his interviews, short stories, and critically acclaimed novels.
Photo Credit: Rolling Stone