THE END OF THE TOUR
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten for Shockya. Databased on Rotten Tomatoes.
Director: James Ponsoldt
Screenwriter: Donald Margulies from David Lipsky’s book Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack, Mamie Gummer, Mickey Sumner
Screened at: Digital Arts, NYC, 6/15/15
Opens: July 31, 2015
David Foster Wallace’s 1996 book Infinite Jest may not be The Great American Novel, but some literary cognoscenti have pronounced it one of the one hundred best works of American fiction. What is traditionally considered The Great American novel is Moby Dick and there are two reasons the diminishing number of U.S. readers might acquire either of these. One is to use as a doorstopper as each book is over one thousand pages. The other is for literary value, though 19th century readers who enjoy the story of revenge against a Great White Whale might be nonplussed by the post-modern language of Infinite Jest. But you don’t have to read Wallace’s masterwork to appreciate “The End of the Tour,” which can be described as “My Dinner with André” in a rental car. James Ponsoldt’s film is targeted to a movie audience that appreciates good talk of the a kind that the French are famous for, and credit must be given to Donald Margulies for adapting journalist David Lipsky’s book Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, the title of which is on its way to becoming a doorstopper in itself.
Lipsky’s book, which came out after Wallace’s suicide from depression, was to be an article in Rolling Stone magazine, which had never had a featured interview with a writer, but Lipsky’s book would be a far more detailed analysis of Wallace’s hopes,dreams, and anxieties than any article. Jesse Eisenberg performs in the role of the journalist, a man who graduated from Brown University magna cum laude, while Jason Segel plays against type as the Great Writer, a man who graduated from Amherst summa cum laude. From the interplay between the duo in a film that is largely a two-hander we are reinforced with the idea that education is not the key to happiness. Though Wallace has moments of joy, especially his regular participation in the Baptist Church weekend dances, he comes across though Segel’s playing as a miserable dude who believes that we read books because we are lonely. We might add that we write books out of loneliness as well: the author lives in a remote section of snowbound Minneapolis, and has no girlfriends despite knowing that his celebrity status should mean no problem in that regard. He allows the journalist to record everything for the most part but reserves the right to delete sections that could cause him to seem offensive to readers.
Jason Segel, best known perhaps for his lead role in “The Five-Year Engagement” about a couple who want to tie the knot but regularly get tripped up, looks the part of a depressed writer here. Writing a bandana around his head whether delivering a book talk on tour or dancing in a church and throughout Wallace’s his five-day interview with Jesse Eisenberg’s character David Lipsky, Segel and Eisenberg bond over their mutual love of junk food like colas, burgers, fries and licorice, though when Eisenberg’s Lipsky appears to be “hitting on” Wallace’s ex-girlfriend, Wallace becomes morose, hostile and stops talking to the journalist for a while. Lipsky accuses him of feeling superior to others because he is a famous writer but meets only denial from the author. In fact Wallace, contrary to what the general public might think of celebrity writers, does not consider himself smarter than the average dude nor does he think he has a richer interior life simply because he is able to express himself with more artistry.
James Ponsoldt is probably the ideal person to direct this two-hander—which does feature small roles from Ron Livingston as the journalist’s boss at Rolling Stone magazine, and Joan Cusack as the author’s publicist. Ponsoldt’s “The Spectacular Now” features a hard-partying high-school senior whose life’s philosophy changes when he meets a “nice girl,” and “Smashed,” a drunken married couple whose relationship is frayed when one of them decides to get sober. “The End of the Tour” lacks the melodrama we expect from the movies, but for the right audience, it deserves status as an eye-opener and a look at the way an actor who is known for comedy does an effective about face in a serious, somber role.
Rated R. 106 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B