The End of the Tour
THE END OF THE TOUR, drama/road movie, rated R, Violet Crown, 2.5 chiles
In 1996, fledgling novelist and Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky accompanied David Foster Wallace on the last few days of his book tour for the bestselling novel Infinite Jest. The article was never published, but a dozen years later, after Wallace committed suicide, Lipsky used the interview tapes as the basis for a bestselling memoir about the road trip, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. The End of the Tour — the film adaptation of the memoir — is a particular perspective on Wallace, colored by time and Lipsky’s journalistic slant, as well as by the performances of Jason Segal as Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg as Lipsky.
Wallace’s estate has denounced the film, claiming he would not have wanted the tapes to be used as the basis for interpreting anything about his life. But taken on its own merits — as a film about a serious interview with a writer who doesn’t know what to do with the attention his new book has attracted — The End of the Tour is compelling. It’s intellectual without crossing the line into pretentious or precious. And though Segal is convincing as a depressed writer, anyone who ever watched interview footage of Wallace for any amount of time can tell you Segal’s performance is too consistently sad to be accurate, nor does he capture Wallace’s fierce intelligence, a trait that, in the film, Lipsky accuses him of holding back around people he thinks aren’t as smart as he is.
Eisenberg’s Lipsky is inscrutable. We don’t know what he thinks of himself or of Wallace. Wallace projects various assumptions onto Lipsky, lashing out when he feels cornered by yet another casual probing question about his feelings or his past. The majority of the movie is actually a flashback to the time the men spent together, anchored by a clumsy, unnecessary framing device of Lipsky finding out about Wallace’s death and later, giving a reading from his own memoir at a bookstore. This structure puts too much emphasis on Lipsky’s role in perpetuating Wallace’s legacy, when the fact is that he barely knew Wallace.
What The End of the Tour does capture well is the desolation experienced by many writers once they become successful. In the film, Wallace says that after gaining a dedicated fan base, it can become easy to treat people he actually knows badly, calling them close when they’re needed and sending them away when he’s fulfilled. This might not be the whole truth of who David Foster Wallace was to those he was close to, but it’s what he presented to a reporter, many years ago, after agreeing to be interviewed by Rolling Stone.
A supposedly fun thing: Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segal