Production Company: A24 Films
Starring: Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg
Director: James Ponsoldt
Running Time: 106 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Sometimes, we want something simple; nothing complex, just straight to the point. No need for explosions, intricate plotlines, or a monumental ending. Just tell it like it is without any fluff. The End of the Tour is exactly that—plain and simple. This true story is a snapshot of the life of David Foster Wallace, an influential writer of his time. Much like the movie Amadeus, the story is told through the eyes of another person, David Lipsky, during the days the writer spent with Wallace. What we get from this film is more than a peek into the world of a famous author; we get insight on life and a message about what it means to be successful, all done in a heartening and sporadically comedic way.
The End of the Tour is based on the biographical book, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, written by Lipsky. Jesse Eisenberg plays Lipsky, a reporter just starting out for Rolling Stone in 1996. The movie revolves around his five-day interview with David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) during Wallace’s book tour for his novel Infinite Jest. Lipsky sees a story nobody else does—a writer who he says he is the next Hemingway, coming out with his critically acclaimed book, a book everybody is talking about, written by a person who’s a bit of a mystery. Lipsky is also an aspiring novelist who’s written a book that is published the same time as Wallace’s, but doesn’t come close to the sales figures and praise. Somewhere deep down, the story expresses Lipsky’s effort to find in Wallace his image of a successful writer. Ultimately, Lipsky is reluctant to believe his eyes when he finds, for the most part, an everyday type of guy.
The film is how the novel reads, a glimpse into the life of a writer. The End of the Tour is also a buddy film with some black comedy and drama engulfed with the underlying tension of an aspiring writer and his envy of an idolized author. The movie is full of deeper views about people and our own selves, on how we should define ourselves using our personality and not our accomplishments. It’s been awhile since there’s been a good independent film that causes the audience to take a moment to reflect on life. Instead of non-stop action, there is non-stop self-observation and jokes that are medium-heavy on the dry side. The creators of the film not only tell us life is how we make it, but illustrate how a seemingly average Joe imparts some deep thoughts about how the world works in subtle ways; in other words, to look at the world from a different angle. For example, one of my favorite quotes comes from Wallace when he talks about his struggles with suicide. To paraphrase: Suicide is like a person jumping off the top of a burning building. Jumping off a building is terrifying to say the least, but when a person sees the flames and thinks of the alternative, the fear of falling doesn’t seem so bad. The quotes, one of the major highlights from The End of the Tour, have a lightheartedness that keeps the audience from being bombarded with line after line of introspection and sociological trends.
Another highlight of the movie is the actors. I thought about how I’d cast this film and after a few minutes, realized I wouldn’t change a thing. In addition to the excellence of Eisenberg and Segel, who couldn’t be more perfect in their portrayals of Lipsky and Wallace, Joan Cusack, Ron Livingston, and Anna Chlumsky turn in admirable performances considering the small size of their roles. As usual, Eisenberg plays a self-assured, intelligent man who is up front about his feelings, while Segel portrays Wallace as a wacky, kindhearted, somewhat shy character with a sense of humor. Even though they have played similar characters in previous roles, Eisenberg and Segel bring a little more to The End of the Tour. What I felt was more emotion, more life. Granted, these characters are based on real people, but I had a stronger connection with Lipsky and Wallace than I’ve had with the characters these actors have played in the past. The dialogue is comedic at times, but there’s a sense of sourness to the characters that comes out more fluidly than one would expect thanks to Eisenberg and Segel providing a good balance to their characters, thereby enriching the movie.
In general, the movie is good. James Ponsoldt is solid with his directing, making sure everything flows consistently on all aspects of the movie. Additionally, the screenwriting by Donald Margulies has a natural rhythm throughout, while cinematographer Jakob Ihre made sure to add serene dryness with regards to color, matching the humor of the film. Danny Elfman does a great job with the music; he never ceases to amaze me with the way he pushes himself to try something new.
The End of the Tour, unfortunately, isn’t perfect as a whole. There are some things that could’ve made it better. Sure, the main characters learn from their travels, and the dialogue makes the movie more entertaining, but the story itself doesn’t have much going on. It’s not necessarily boring, but the story isn’t complex and is slow at times. The tensions build between Wallace and Lipsky throughout the story, but there is no real climax to their tale. The story is palpable until the end, with no twists and turns.
As independent films go, with a perceptive message to give and feelings to be experienced, The End of the Tour was enjoyable. It isn’t like Juno or Little Miss Sunshine, but you will exit the theater thinking more analytically than when you first walked in. While it’s a little slow for some, you do get your required daily amount of humor and pleasurable characters, but you won’t be astonished by this film like you might with other independent movie classics.
For more information on The End of the Tour, visit the movie’s website at http://a24films.com/films/the-end-of-the-tour/
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All photos © 2015 A24 Films. All Rights Reserved.
© 2015, Nick Polizzi. All rights reserved.
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