Director: James Ponsoldt
Writers: Donald Margulies (screenplay), David Lipsky (book)
Stars: Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Anna Chlumsky, Ron Livingston, Joan Cusack
The End of the Tour begins in David Lipsky’s apartment whilst working on his computer receives a call with some devastating news. The first sound we hear in the movie is R.E.M.’s “New Orleans Instrumental No. 1” from their 1992 album “Automatic for the People. What a fantastic track to set the tone of this movie and right away I’m there…..
Lipsky rummages around his apartment looking for some old cassettes (and batteries) from his interview with acclaimed writer David Foster Wallace.
In 1996, Rolling Stone Magazine writer David Lipsky (Eisenberg) begged his superior played by Ron Livingston and credited as “David Lipsky’s Editor” for a chance to interview Wallace (Siegel) on a book tour about his 1000 page epic novel, Infinite Jest, which he agrees to. Lipsky makes the journey to Wallace’s house in Minneapolis where he finds Wallace doesn’t look at all like he imagined. Wallace is tired, haggard with grunge like long hair.
Both Lipsky and Wallace on their initial meeting exchange small talk and over the course of a few days their relationship grows quite a bit. Lipsky (on whose memoir the film is based) having to balance his respect for the writer but at the same time concede Wallace is the superior writer between both of them and not forgetting his job as an interviewer. Jesse Eisenberg to me is a limited range actor. That’s not slating his abilities as all the parts I have seen him play in various genres are incomparable. He has chosen his parts over the past ten years extremely well. Here is another of those broken quick thinking personalities at which he excels in.
Whilst wary of his success, Wallace is aware that he’s been wired to want it and suspicious of the journalist who comes to interview him, but aware that there is a connection there it must be said that “End of the Tour” doesn’t play up to intellectual snobbery on Wallace’s part or in fact Segal’s part portraying the writer but instead tries to understand the isolation and lack of trust to other people Wallace is experiencing. Segel is a revelation in this movie playing a very underwhelmed character which is a far cry from the sitcom / romcoms we are used to seeing him portray to embodying a conflicted writer perfectly.
The supporting cast of Anna Chlumsky (My Girl) Ron Livingston (Office Space) and Joan Cusack (High Fidelity) were exactly that. Chlumsky’s role as Lipsky’s girlfriend Sarah was sparingly to say the least and mostly in the first fifteen minutes of the movie and albeit a couple of phone calls later in in the movie. Livingston’s appearance is more a cameo playing a Rolling Stone Magazine Editor at the beginning of the movie. Cusack came into the film at the midway point as Wallace’s driver. As interesting as the one on one intensity of the majority of the film focusing on the two main characters Cusack’s “Patty” gave a freshness at the right time and at no point took us out of the movie.
Donald Margulies’ writing for the screenplay captures the relationship between the two troubled writers perfectly and draws you in to their intense and sometimes intimate conversations. Aided of course by Lipsky’s memoir book tells the tale of tragic tale of two insecure male egos clashing and follows both of their journeys to and from the book-signing session in Minneapolis. Margulies’ previous work in writing is mostly in television and TV Movies.
Director James Ponsoldt is aided by the brilliant performances by Eisenberg and especially Jason Segel which must have helped him tremendously. But Ponsoldt’s approach to this project never undersells the drama or the storyline, but actually enhances it with its documentary style effect of being right in the actors faces and portrays as a real life interview. The up close and personal style of the interviews reminded me of the now famous and legendary interview between Jan Wenner and John Lennon in 1970 in New York for Rolling Stone Magazine with enough insight to the artists thoughts, beliefs, fears and hopes.
Running in at 1 hour and 45 minutes the movie flew by so quickly. I have to confess that I didn’t have a clue who David Foster Wallace was and never heard of his breakthrough book Infinite Jest. Nevertheless, knowing all this is not required at all to be enthralled by this fascinating and utterly compelling film.