The End of the Tour

THE END OF THE TOUR, drama/road movie, rated R, Vi­o­let Crown, 2.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - — Jen­nifer Levin

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

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