The End of the Tour

A riveting experience of a film.
★★★★
Movie Review #1,031

end_of_the_tour

A24
Drama
1 hour, 46 minutes
Rated R (language including some sexual references)
Released July 31, 2015
Directed by James Ponsoldt
Screenplay by Donald Margulies
From the book “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself” by David Lipsky
Starring Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Anna Chlumsky, Mamie Gummer, and Joan Cusack

Let’s take a moment and look at “The End of the Tour” as something more than just a film. If there’s anyone who has the utmost right to judge the film, it’s those who David Foster Wallace knew personally. Most of them haven’t seen it, and that’s because they refuse to see it. Wallace never would have wanted this movie made. He wasn’t reclusive, but he definitely wasn’t one for the public eye.

That being said, “The End of the Tour” is theoretically a desecration of the author, and we only desecrate him more by watching it. You’re basically betraying him by watching it, but as odd as it may sound, you’re also honoring him. I myself cannot say how much of “The End of the Tour” is truth and how much is fiction. I’m not sure whether it matters, though. This isn’t a biopic so much as an experience. You’re not watching the author’s life story. You’re living viscerally with him.

By no means does screenwriter Donald Margulies glorify Wallace in giving us that experience. His narrative warms us up with superficial points about the author and delves down until he’s reached a part of Wallace’s core that causes him most discomfort. Jason Segel captures the ever-developing character marvelously. His role as Wallace marks a sudden shift from raunchy comedy into deep dramatic territory, which he fluently embraces. I’ll also note that costume designer Emma Potter does equally well in transforming his appearance. To say the least, you more than likely won’t recognize him as Jason Segel.

“The End of the Tour” chronicles Wallace’s five-day road trip/interview with Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg), the subject of Lipsky’s 2010 memoir Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. However the screenplay offers not only the conversations recounted in that memoir, but also off-the-record conversations that Lipsky later reported to Margulies for the purpose of the script itself. It’s safe to say that the film is fueled by its dialogue, and brilliantly so between Segel and Eisenberg. You tend to lose yourself in their conversations and forget that they exist only because of a magazine article that Lipsky is going to write.

James Ponsoldt is a formidable character director. He made that clear two years ago with “The Spectacular Now”, and now he’s reaffirmed it. As with his previous film, “The End of the Tour” doesn’t entertain by letting you eavesdrop on characters and their stories. By comparison, Wallace and Lipsky are crafted as characters that will walk right off the screen and sit down right beside you.

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