Nettlesome journalist buzzes around David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

Nettlesome journalist buzzes around David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour 

Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel in The End of the Tour

Photo courtesy of A24 Films

Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel in The End of the Tour

Are films that dramatize the lives of noteworthy people obliged to illuminate what makes them noteworthy? If so, the David Foster Wallace biopic The End of the Tour had its work cut out for it. Depicting a musician, politician or sports icon, whose accomplishments lend themselves to cinematic portrayal alongside their lives, is easier than portraying a writer, whose work or life can be adapted for the silver screen, but rarely at the same time.

Director James Ponsoldt grasps at both aims. The End of the Tour is ostensibly a portrait of the famed writer, set during the 1996 book tour promoting his famously unfilmable magnum opus, Infinite Jest. The film is adapted from Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, journalist David Lipsky's 2010 book about the Midwestern road trip he spent with Wallace during the last five days of the tour. Lipsky's assignment was for a Rolling Stone profile that was later scuttled. After Wallace's suicide in 2008, Lipsky reassembled his notes and interviews in a nonfiction book.

Lipsky's narrative, adapted for the screen by playwright Donald Margulies, repeatedly informs us of Wallace's genius without providing much evidence for it. Comedic actor Jason Segel channels the bandana-clad author's idiosyncratic personality in a portrait of a rising star ill at ease with the trappings of fame but cognizant of its spoils. For Lipsky (played by Jesse Eisenberg, who, as usual, is really playing Jesse Eisenberg), Wallace's unassuming house in Bloomington, Illinois, adorned with Barney bath towels and an Alanis Morissette poster, is the antithesis of the literati ideal.

Wallace's self-effacement confounds and eventually infuriates Lipsky as the tension between interviewer and subject—the film's true fulcrum—increases. The byplay between the two Davids recalls Mozart and Salieri. Lipsky, an aspiring author, covets Wallace's brilliance and resents the way he seems to suppress it.

Meanwhile, Wallace's social awkwardness and well-chronicled depressive paranoia emerge. He rebukes Lipsky for ingratiating himself to his friends and co-opting his lingo. "You agreed to this interview!" Lipsky repeatedly reminds him, and seems to consider this assent a license to rummage through Wallace's medicine cabinet and (apparently) flirt with his former college fling.

As Lipsky and Wallace part, Lipsky sheepishly presents a copy of his modest novel, The Art Fair, to the literary genius. When Lipsky casually mentions that he got to choose the cover art for the UK printing, Wallace snaps, "You mean you ..." before catching the competitive crack in his veneer. Whether his aw-shucks exterior is genuine or put on is an intriguing riddle, but it's not one this film is able to answer.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Infinite pest."

  • The adaptation of David Lipsky’s book about the famed author opens in the Triangle Friday.

Film Details

The End of the Tour
Rated R · 106 min. · 2015
Director: James Ponsoldt
Writer: David Lipsky
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack, Mamie Gummer, Mickey Sumner, Ron Livingston and Lindsey Elizabeth

Trailer


Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for The End of the Tour

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review



Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

Just saw Pitch Perfect 3 trailer. Looks like its going to be another year of fun ride. Incredibly excited to …

by Andrew190 on Dueling college a cappella groups in Pitch Perfect (Film Review)

We'd be hard pressed to find a free local weekly with film reviews this poetic. Your writers translate complex ideas …

by Aims Arches on Isabelle Huppert Unforgettably Avenges Herself in Elle (Film Review)

Ever since the surprise success of the Fox TV show Glee audiences have been exposed to the world of choirs, …

by philip190 on Dueling college a cappella groups in Pitch Perfect (Film Review)

robertm748: You mean without warning, apart from the very first paragraph of his review???

by Neil Morris on Amy Adams’s Authenticity Elevates Tom Ford’s Glam Pulp Fiction in Nocturnal Animals (Film Review)

Nathan Gelgud is unsure whether the disenfranchised classes in England are whiter than in the US? Really?

Well, …

by Eileen Smyth on Aliens land in an English slum in Attack the Block (Film Review)

Comments

Just saw Pitch Perfect 3 trailer. Looks like its going to be another year of fun ride. Incredibly excited to …

by Andrew190 on Dueling college a cappella groups in Pitch Perfect (Film Review)

We'd be hard pressed to find a free local weekly with film reviews this poetic. Your writers translate complex ideas …

by Aims Arches on Isabelle Huppert Unforgettably Avenges Herself in Elle (Film Review)

Most Read

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

© 2017 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation