Saturday, September 12, 2015

The End of the Tour: Movie Review


A battle of writers and a friendship with depth.

The End of the Tour is a conversation, a friendship, and a battle of intelligence and neuroses. David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) has just emerged onto the literary scene with the publication of Infinite Jest, hailed as the best writer of his generation. David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) is a new hire at Rolling Stone magazine and convinces his boss to let him cover the end of Wallace’s book tour, interview him and write an article.   2015

Directed by: James Ponsoldt

Screenplay by: Donald Margulies
Based on the book by David Lipsky

Starring: Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg

And that’s the entire plot. As said, the movie is just their conversation, their friendship, and who they are as people. The film opens with Wallace’s later suicide and you immediately understand that he is the troubled genius. Confirmed alcoholism, rumored heroin addiction, suicide attempts, and an inability to form meaningful and happy relationships. And currently (1996) he’s the most famous person in the literary world.

Enter David Lipsky. Not the most famous person in the literary world even though he would very much like to be. He’s struggled to achieve limited success, but he does have a book published, he has a job, and he has a girlfriend. But as he says in the movie, he wants precisely what Wallace already has.

There’s going to be a metaphorical battle and a competition here. David Foster Wallace is very apprehensive of reporters and what anybody might say about him and wants as much control over this interview as possible. David Lipsky wants to use this interview as a launching pad into more recognized success. And he also wants to prove to Wallace, a confirmed literary genius, that he is just as smart.

But instead of a battle, a friendship forms. Both have a very nervous energy surrounding them. Jesse Eisenberg playing his usual brand of over-anxious and neurotic (but I say this positively as an Eisenberg fan), and Jason Segel gives Wallace a much more interesting energy. A sense of instability, nervousness, but also comfort with himself. Because he’s so smart, there’s an intriguing air of the unknown around him. You never know what he’s thinking or what he’s going to say.

The friendship is beautiful. These two people with their fair share of insecurities and neuroses get past the inherent conflict in their relationship (interviewer vs interviewee) and share a lot about each other. Their love of Alanis Morissette, past girlfriends, depression, hope for the future. They understand each other because they really are so much alike, which, in turn, leads to a more contentious relationship.

The development into the more baser elements of the characters (especially Eisenberg’s Lipsky) brings us to the meat of the movie. The friendship has some great humour (Segel has phenomenal line delivery and would swiftly deliver a joke and then heart-breaking sentiment with the same breath), but when we approach the end, the audience realizes how well we know these characters. There’s the sense that we’ll never really know David Foster Wallace, but we do know David Lipsky, and he knows Wallace.