The End of the Tour, 2015
Directed by James Ponsoldt
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel, Anna Chlumsky, Mamie Gummer, Mikey Sumner, Ron Livingston and Joan Cusack
The story of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace, which took place right after the 1996 publication of Wallace’s groundbreaking epic novel, Infinite Jest.
Opening on the sad news of a death from apparent suicide, James Ponsoldt’s new film tells the story of author and Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg), a struggling author who senses a story in the success of author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), who has recently enjoyed stupendous reviews for his latest opus, Infinite Jest. Wanting to know more about just who is the man behind the book, Lipsky sets off across the country to join Wallace on the final few days of his book tour.
The first thing that strikes you when watching The End of the Tour is that it moves and feels like a play: from it’s long monologues to its zippy back-and-forths as its moves from location to location without really “moving”, the film is more interested in the moments than the setting as it’s delightful and sincere language and conversations between the characters washes over you. Scribed by playwright Donald Margulies, its a film that’s rich and textured with wonderful anecdotes and life musings in intimate but profound ways as the two men share their stories and reflections on life.
Coupled with Ponsoldt’s deft yet simplistic direction that is both beautiful and stirring, told under the hue of the local Michigan (substituting Bloomington) cityscapes and snowy countrysides. Strangely, Ponsoldt’s work has flown under much of the radar across the pond, with films such as The Spectacular Now and Smashed either still to be released or given minor DVD releases. If you enjoy this, seek out his back catalogue instantly.
It also deals with the lure of fame and what life is like for those lucky ones that obtain it: Wallace, almost overnight, is an instant success despite only writing almost as a distraction for his depression and addictions (more television and sugar than drugs, at least that what it seems), while Lipsky has always dreamed of finding success, working his butt off to get his job, let alone get his own book published (and to flop). Both men are gifted, but both have their demons but find comfort in each others wisdoms.
What the film also does tremendously well over all its other nuances is that it is simply a story of friendship. A story of two men discovering the experience of the others’ way of life, yearning somewhat to trade places with one an other in the hope that it may electrify what they each consider a stinted existence. Both men have struggled to find their true places in the world, seemingly isolated from the rest of it, but in each other they find some remnants of solace and reconciliation in both each other and themselves.
In addition, Tour is blessed with two stunning central performances from its leads: Segel, known to many for his avuncular comedic timing in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and How I Met Your Mother, delivers an earnest, raw portrayal as Wallace, full of warmth and passion, thriving in a more mature role than he has played before. He is certainly capable of stepping out of Marshall’s shadow, and anyone who has seen his work in the under-seen Jeff, Who Lives At Home will attest.
Beside him is the brilliant Eisenberg, who yet again proves himself as one of the best actors of his generation, continuing his fantastic run of form from last year’s criminally under-seen Night Moves. The actor’s band of acting and humour repels many, but here again he proves his undoubted talent with an understated but moving portrayal of Lipsky.
A superb portrait of author David Foster Wallace, stunningly portrayed by Jason Segel in the actor’s career-best performance, The End of the Tour is one on the year’s hidden treasures. Ably supported by another superb Eisenberg performance and some beautiful direction from James Ponsoldt, it’s a thought-provoking, poignant and funny trip into a window on the scribe’s life.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Scott Davis is Senior Staff Writer at Flickering Myth and co-host of The Flickering Myth Podcast