The End of the Tour – Movie Review
Rating: B (Good)
The End of the Tour is actually quite simple in its biographical execution, but it exhibits the layers necessary to dig deeper into its main subject. Even with no prior knowledge of David Foster Wallace’s life and work, director James Ponsoldt and screenwriter Donald Margulies make him an individual who we learn enough about to follow know him by film’s end. At its most basic level, it’s simply about two people who spend time together for a weekend. There’s no “triumph of the human spirit” nor a grand journey taken by them, except in what they find out about each other.
Journalist David Lipsky is meant to be our eyes and ears into Wallace as we also unravel who this writer is. Is he eccentric and neurotic or somebody with more of a head on his shoulders than we assume? The key goal of The End of the Tour seems to be in peeling away the layers of his personality and how his life has effected him. While showing Wallace’s insecurities, the film never points and laughs. Ponsoldt and Margulies appear to want to learn as much about him as the audience and Lipsky does. He wears a bandana on his head through almost the entire film, but the script only makes a small mention of it and how the average person might view it and that’s all that is needed to be said. The screenplay never focuses deeply on minutiae, but rather the grand picture of who David Foster Wallace was.
Within the story lies a further commentary on the role of the media in its depiction of famous people. Lipsky wants to interview Wallace out of genuine affection for his work, but his editor in chief is more interested in his secretive background. Why interview somebody if there’s not something dramatic that can be brought to the table, it seems. As Lipsky carries around his tape recorder, we wait for the inevitable harsh questions that will come out. The script also highlights the relationship between interviewer and subject. How close is too close? The friendship between the two of them is believably portrayed, but not without the hardships as he each remembers why the other is there.
Jason Segal allows for a different side of him, far away from his comedic persona, when playing David Foster Wallace. This does not feel like an impersonation nor a caricature, but an actual living person on the screen. With the drop of a hat, he can go from nonchalant to frustrated and it’s a strong transition. Little nuances in his performance allow us to get to know Wallace and Segal clearly seems to have done the research, while not letting the real man overwhelm him. Jesse Eisenberg continues to show why he’s one of the most reliable young actors today. David Lipsky isn’t as widely recognised a figure as Wallace is, so he has an easier role to play than Segal. Nonetheless, their chemistry works and the dramatic arc Lipsky goes through is effective.
The End of the Tour isn’t a typical biopic and not merely because it only focuses on one weekend in David Foster Wallace’s life. It rather seeks to use those couple of days to explore precisely what made him tick and what unfortunately led to his tragic end. Through the lens of James Ponsoldt’s direction, we get a captivating story that is trying to say multiple things and ultimately succeeds at a lot of them. Led by two strong performances, The End of the Tour clearly understands its subjects and their thought process during this period where their lives intervened. Yes, one was an interviewer and the other was the person he sought to get answers from, but from that came a relationship that has been well portrayed on screen.