Still Time To See ‘End Of The Tour’

Jason Segel-End of the Tour-680I’m glad to have finally seen End of the Tour, and as it is still playing in theaters nationwide,
I feel impelled to recommend it. It’s never too late to catch up with a film
this special and satisfying. James Ponsoldt, who won me over with The Spectacular Now, adds another
feather to his cap with his treatment of this challenging two-character piece,
scripted by Donald Margulies. And I won’t soon forget the penetrating
performances of Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg.

Eisenberg plays David Lipsky, a writer who—upon hearing news
of the suicide of David Foster Wallace in 2008—digs out the audiocassettes of
his conversations with the author. With that, we flash back twelve years to the
week he spent with Wallace at his home in Bloomington, Illinois and on the last
stop of a book tour promoting his groundbreaking novel An Infinite Jest.

Other people pop in and out of the narrative, but this is
essentially the story of two writers and their probing, tenuous relationship
over a short span of days. Lipsky is nervous and not a little envious as he
tries to get to know the hottest author of the moment. Wallace is willfully
eccentric, a loner who is aware that people are suddenly interested in knowing everything
about him—from rumors of past drug abuse to his habit of wearing a bandana on
his head.

Segel catches every nuance of this complex, quicksilver
figure, who wants to be seen as a “regular guy,” consuming junk food and
playing with his dogs, yet cognizant of the fact that after years of obscurity he
is now seen as a major literary figure. He has reluctantly agreed to this
interview, but with Lipsky’s pocket tape recorder shoved in his face, he
worries how he will be perceived in the finished magazine profile. (Although
commissioned for Rolling Stone, the
piece was never published; it emerged as a book, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David
Foster Wallace
in 2010.)

Jessie Eisenberg-End of the Tour-680

Eisenberg is equally impressive as the hyper-tense
interviewer who tries to establish a friendly relationship without crossing
certain journalistic lines. A reporter in his position has to be both a seducer
and an inquisitor, but he genuinely admires Wallace and doesn’t want to betray
the trust the author has bestowed upon him. (The film should be required
viewing for aspiring journalists.)

Segel and Eisenberg play off each other like two great
tennis pros at the top of their game; each one enhances the other. Eisenberg
has played this kind of neurotic guy before, but that doesn’t take away from
his achievement. Segel, on the other hand, is revelatory in a masterful
performance that never strikes a false note. End of the Tour is one of the best films of 2015.

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April 2024