By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
On September 12, 2008, acclaimed author David Foster Wallace died as a result of suicide. Though he wasn’t exactly a household name, the influence of his work is undeniable. Fifteen of his works (both fiction and non-fiction) were published, both during his lifetime and post-humously. The University of Texas at Austin, Illinois State University, and Loyola University have all celebrated and honored his writing. The enigmatic and insecure author touched the lives of his readers, students and contemporaries, including writer David Lipsky, who spent five days with Wallace for an interview for Rolling Stone Magazine. Writer/director James Ponsoldt (Smashed, The Spectacular Now) has made a film that beautifully recreates this amazing meeting of two talented writers and the impact their short time together had on both of their lives.
In Ponsoldt’s film, Rolling Stone journalist and author Dave Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) has just recently read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) and wants to get an interview with the author for his magazine. Wallace reluctantly agrees to allow Lipsky to join him on the last few days of his book tour, and, at first, proves to be somewhat difficult to interview. Their eventual conversations about life, love, writing, fame, success, and the trappings that come for that success gives Lipsky much insight into the mind and heart of a gentle soul. The two bond over these thoughtful discussions. However, the insecurities and egos of both writers do eventually clash and make their final days together a bit awkward and uncomfortable.
I sat in the theater in awe, smiling and laughing often, enjoying the outstanding talent on the big screen before me. Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel deliver extraordinary performances–perhaps the best of their careers so far. Their onscreen chemistry is palpable and uncanny. With the exception of a few moments where both actors utilized some trademark mannerisms, I got lost in their acting and truly believed they had become these characters. That’s how beautifully transcendent their work is in this film, and I most certainly hope they get some recognition early next year.
The writing and direction by James Ponsoldt is absolutely sublime and nearly flawless. After watching his last two films, Smashed and The Spectacular Now, Ponsoldt had already entered my cinema radar and held a place of high esteem. With The End of the Tour, Ponsoldt delivers his most impressive and accomplished film to date. Not knowing exactly what to expect from this film really helped because Ponsoldt’s writing and direction floored me.
With such talented lead actors who share a genuine chemistry, Ponsoldt’s writing flows resplendently from their mouths and the feelings are genuinely portrayed through their expressions and actions. There is a natural wit to Ponsoldt’s screenplay and both Segel and Eisenberg have the charisma to bring it to life. Ponsoldt’s minimal approach to his direction here also keeps his audiences well focused on the characters and what they are feeling and saying.
I feel that the audiences will share a nearly tangible bond with these characters much like the one shared by the actors portraying them. The movie consists mostly of conversations, but the writing and personalities of the actors/characters do not bore whatsoever. Regardless of the fact that I had never heard of David Foster Wallace prior to seeing this movie, The End of the Tour definitely intrigued me about the real Wallace, and the acclaimed work he has left behind as his legacy. Fans of Wallace should be pleased with James Ponsoldt’s excellent film. Those, like myself, who were unfamiliar with the writer will leave the theater fascinated with this talented author who has sadly left us.