The What/Why/How of “The End of the Tour”

end of the tour

Nutshell: The End of the Tour is an incredibly realistic slice-of-life film involving a famous author and the reporter interviewing him for a piece in Rolling Stone.  The back and forth between these two characters gets into more than fame and its trappings, giving viewers a look at what it must have been like to go through such a life-altering experience… especially if you’re dealing with demons that you can’t/won’t let go of.  Grade: A

What is it: a fictional look at two real-life people, author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel),  “one of the most influential and innovative writers of the last 20 years”, and author/Rolling Stone David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg), as they take a five day road trip to the last stop on Wallace’s bookstore tour for Infinite Jest.  Think becoming famous would be great?  Watch Tour and reconsider. Told in flashback after Wallace’s suicide in 2008, Tour looks at the two men and in doing so lets us peek into their brains, and their day-to-day life.

Why should you see it: have you read Infinite Jest?  Then you’ll probably jump at the chance to get a better peek into the brilliant mind that created such a highly praised novel.  But if, like me, you haven’t cracked that particular book, it’s still a fascinating look at what makes people tick.  Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg deliver performances that dig deep, and the plot — thanks to the personality ticks of the two characters/men — is just quirky enough to keep you interested without becoming twee or self-congratulatory. By looking at both Wallace and Lipsky’s personal foibles and difficulties, this is more a look at the human condition rather than a famous person biopic.  Though it serves both masters equally well.  If you’ve ever felt out of place, outside looking in, or just plain alien in the face of everyone else, this film will ring true.

How did I like it: Tour is a meet-cute for two nervous, frightened, barely socialized guys.  And it’s a compelling film.  What is fame?  How does it affect someone?  How do you go on from there?  What’s it like to desperately want to be famous, and stand next to someone who is?  Director James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) brushes aside the trappings of success and gets to the heart of the brief but powerful rapport these two men shared.  Screenwriter Donald Margulies takes Lipsky’s novel “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself” and creates a captivating story from a nonfiction account, with scenes at times so powerful it’s difficult to see where the actors stop and the characters begin.  (Of course I couldn’t help but wonder if Eisenberg’s own issues with anxiety added to the richness of this particular performance.) Wallace and Lipsky dance around trust issues, jealousy, panic and budding friendship.  Segel and Eisenberg draw you in with their honest performances, lending an authenticity to the tale that raises Tour above its seemingly one-note story.

 

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