#REVIEW: “THE END OF THE TOUR”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
The year is 1996, and David Foster Wallace (Jason Segal) has just published his critically-acclaimed first novel, Infinite Jest. Wanting to get ahead as a writer for Rolling Stone, David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) requests to interview Wallace and accompany him at the end of his book tour.
James Ponsoldt’s overly-reverent The End of the Tour has many layers, much like Wallace himself. Some are on the surface and more superficial, while others are deeper and more subtle – bordering on the existential. Using Lipsky’s novel Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself about his five-day trip with Wallace, Ponsoldt and screenwriter Donald Margulies have created a very intimate character study of two men coming from two very different places. Some have criticized the veracity of the Film, but that does not take away from its impact or how utterly fascinating the Film becomes over the course of its 106-minute running time.
But with that said, the Film is incredibly dry. It is very much a dialogue driven piece, with little to no action (although a scene involving Wallace and Lipsky catching a matinee of John Woo’s underrated Broken Arrow ups the quota immensely). It also has a very bizarre sense of humour, finding laughs in the details and minutia of existentialism. But the heart and drive of the Film is the chemistry between Segal and Eisenberg. It is hard not to admire, and easily overcomes the stilted pacing of the Film. Their comradery and banter is simply terrific, and makes the harder moments easier to sit through. And I doubt there will be another Movie this year that features as much chain smoking as this Film does.
My knowledge of Wallace is limited at best, but Segal’s take on the writer feels genuine and moving. It is initially quite jarring watching him play so far against type, with only glints of his comic past peaking through. But that makes his performance that much more wildly enjoyable. He plays Wallace with an edge, despite his somber and deadpan tone. He is emotionally guarded and soft spoken, with little nuances that Segal really plays into. By the end of the Film, he becomes positively electric. It is a transformative performance, and is easily his strongest since Jeff, Who Lives at Home. Eisenberg is also quite good as Lipsky. He has the unfortunate task of playing narrator and taking the back seat to Segal’s masterful performance, but he takes it in stride. He has been perfecting this morose, outsider looking in kind of role for the better part of the decade, and he has only gotten better over time. His work here is authentic – maybe even more than Segal’s.
While I liked The Spectacular Now more, The End of the Tour is Ponsoldt’s most accomplished and moving Film to date. Segal is incredible as Wallace, stealing the show at every turn no matter what his character is talking about. Eisenberg is great as always, and their chemistry together is positively translucent. It may not have a lot going on action wise, but it is downright fascinating in its dialogue and exquisite writing.
Sony Pictures Canada release THE END OF THE TOUR Friday, August 28, 2015 in select cities.