Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Now on Amazon Prime: The End of the Tour (2015)

The End of the Tour (2015) - Directed by James Ponsoldt; Written by Donald Margulies; Starring Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack, Ron Livingston.

By Kenny Howell

Since we no longer have David Foster Wallace in the world, we have to rely on his words, the many words he wrote, and past interviews.

Luckily, Director James Ponsoldt and actor Jason Segel have gave us probably the closest thing we can have to actually spending time with Wallace in their film The End of the Tour.

Wallace, if you didn't know, committed suicide a few years back, but we have plenty of interviews to get into the mind of the brilliant writer. One of those was a recorded in a book by David Lipsky called Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. It was about the short time Lipsky spent with Wallace while he was writing a piece for Rolling Stone. Lipsky, here played by Jesse Eisenberg, said it was the best conversation he ever had.

The conversation happened as Wallace was wrapping up his book tour for Infinite Jest, the mammoth novel that got worldwide acclaim, and had many calling Wallace the greatest writer of this generation. That was tough for Wallace to handle. Wallace was hypercritical of himself, but mostly how he would be perceived. He was constantly scared that he was going to be portrayed differently than he wanted, or that he would say something that would make him appear pretentious or elitist. He also reportedly had many personal issues in addition to the depression that eventually led to his suicide.

Wallace tried to be a normal guy. He just had a small house in the town where he taught with his two dogs, frequently ate junk food like McDonalds and Pop Tarts, and enjoyed ridiculous action films like Broken Arrow. It makes you wonder, as it did Lipsky, if he was trying to cover for her intellect, like he was ashamed of it. Or maybe a cover for his own demons.

Ponsoldt's film approaches this issues as Lipsky and Wallace talk about life, where we are headed, the nature of success, the nature of intelligence, and Die Hard. It may be idolize Wallace a bit, glossing over some things, but it does approach them.

The movie really does feel like we are apart of the conversation, and it is why it works so well. Eisenberg is Eisenbergian, but Segel inhabits Wallace. He never seems to overplaying it, which he could have easily, he is understated, thoughtful and vulnerable, just the perfect balance. It's not the perfect impression of Wallace, but it doesn't need to be. He becomes him, and we get to spend just a little bit longer with the brilliant writer.

The End of the Tour is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Rating: ***1/2

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