Thursday, July 30, 2015

“The End Of The Tour”–Movie Review



This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of the new drama, “The End Of The Tour”, starring Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg.


When a journalist is sent to interview a best-selling author during his book promotion, how will spending several days together impact the life of both men?


In the mid-1990’s, the new novel “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace (Segel) created quite a cultural buzz around the country. Written in a unique voice and style, the book doesn’t take long to become a hit and as its author, Wallace himself is soon finding himself to be a celebrity. Working at Rolling Stone magazine around this time, David Lipsky (Eisenberg) pitches to his boss the idea of an extensive interview with Wallace; reluctantly, Lipsky’s editor consents and immediately sends his young reporter to Wallace’s home in Bloomington, Indiana to trail him as his promotional tour winds down.

Lipsky undertakes this assignment with great zeal, not just because he admires Wallace’s work, but because of more personal – arguably, more selfish – reasons: Lipsky himself is an aspiring author who seeks the level of notoriety Wallace is now gaining. Just a few years younger than the mid-thirties Wallace, Lipsky is eager to learn how Wallace’s mind works and what differences have occurred in his life, given how drastically it has changed with the sudden success. Observing how Wallace teaches his writing class at a local college, it is clear to Lipsky how Wallace’s students hold their instructor in high esteem.

Wallace has to head to Minneapolis-St. Paul to appear at a book signing at a local store, then be interviewed on a radio station. Lipsky tags along so he can glean even more information about the inscrutable novelist. Things seem to be going well; after being initially cautious, the two men eventually bond and appear to trust each other. Things go somewhat awry, however, when Wallace incorrectly interprets Lipsky’s conversation with an ex-girlfriend of Wallace as an attempt to pick her up. Despite Lipsky’s denial, the bond between the men has been broken and the trust violated. With Lipsky’s assignment nearing its conclusion, will he be able to resurrect the rapport the two previously had in order to ask his subject key questions essential to the interview?


“The End Of The Tour” is a curious amalgam of the popular Buddy Film and Road Trip Movie genres. If you liked a movie such as director Louis Malle’s “My Dinner With Andre”, then there is an excellent chance you will appreciate “The End Of The Tour” as well; to some degree, the two are somewhat similar in that they’re both essentially about an extended, wide-ranging conversation between a pair of intellectuals. However, just as the main criticism of “Andre” was that it was very “talky”, the same complaint may be made about “The End Of The Tour”. Ultimately, what will determine whether or not you’ll enjoy this motion picture will rely considerably on how fascinating you find the conversation (again, not unlike “Andre”).

The story takes place in a flashback; having just learned of Wallace’s death by suicide in 2008, Lipsky replays the audio recordings of the original interview in order to reminisce about the experience. It then concludes with Lipsky reading from his book about the interview, “Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace”; it was this book on which is the movie “The End Of The Tour” is based. Largely, the success of the film will rest on whether you believe Wallace was a brilliantly talented writer or simply a kook (the author’s history of substance abuse, institutionalization and prior suicide attempts are all referenced to various degrees).

There is also the matter of Lipsky’s hero worship as portrayed in “The End Of The Tour”: either you share it or you don’t and if you don’t then it may prove difficult – if not utterly impossible – to truly and completely grok this movie. Neither of the characters in this film come across as entirely sympathetic, which of course makes it rather a challenge to root for either one. What both Lipsky and Wallace have in common with each other is their self-absorbed personality. Wallace was clearly a deeply disturbed individual; while Lipsky may not have had either his success or his talent in common with him, neither did he have Wallace’s demons in common either,

The End of the Tour (2015) on IMDb

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