Writers hate writers. So don’t be one.
In 1996, David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) was a writer for Rolling Stone and was in desperate need of a story to make his mark on, or better yet, get his name out there with. He found this in the form of novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) who, through his novel Infinite Jest, was receiving all sorts of praise and attention. And to promote this book even more than it needed to be, Wallace is forced to go out on a book-tour, which he invites Lipsky to the final day of. Initially, Lipsky and Wallace don’t seem to really know how to talk to one another or get around the fact that they’re both writers, and one is writing a story on the other. There’s a lot of awkward sighs and pauses between the two, which may be mostly due to the fact that Lipsky can’t help but be enamored by Wallace’s presence he holds both on the page, as well as off of it. But once personal issues of Wallace’s past, family and themes get brought up, it brings out a whole other side that Lipsky doesn’t want to believe is true or see, but also can’t deny is there and be scared of.
I’ll admit it, I’ve never read or purchased Infinite Jest and honestly, I don’t know if I have any intentions on doing so. It’s not that the length of the book scares me (after all, I sat through all 500-plus pages of Glamorama and didn’t complain), but it’s more of the dedication it takes to not just get through all of the pages, but also to appreciate the genius of David Foster Wallace for all that he was, or, from what I’m told he was. Basically, one day, when I’m older, a tad bit wiser, and don’t have much going on in my life other than just sitting around and wondering, waiting for the next show to binge-watch, then yeah, I’ll find a copy, sit down, and read all of Infinite Jest in its entirety. But, like I said, for now, all I have to base any respect on is what people say about Wallace and the book itself.
And that’s kind of the beauty of the End of the Tour: You don’t really have to know anything about Foster Wallace or Lipsky to become enamored with either personas or what they’re saying – they’re interesting enough as is that it doesn’t matter what it is they may be discussing or be delving into, all we want to do is hear them talk more and more.
This is why writer/director James Ponsoldt really does deserve a lot of credit – not only is he tacking subject-material and a story that may be very limited to a certain kind of audience, but he’s also trying to find a way to make these subjects themselves accessible and compelling enough to watch, even if we don’t already know anything about them to begin with. Right from the very beginning, there’s this feeling that Ponsoldt has a good idea of who each of these two guys are that, when they get together to conduct this so-called “interview”, they’re really just chewin’ the fat and enjoying every second, which is why we sort of do the same. It’s the kind of movie where smart, talented people, talk to one another, but instead of sounding like total and complete pretentious a-holes when discussing the meaning of life and Sternheim, they sound like interesting, sometimes funny fellas who may have some actual insight into the way the world works, as well as movies like Die Hard or Broken Arrow.
But what always keeps the End of the Tour moving, when it isn’t just focusing on these two chatting about their lives and careers, is that this is all happening because of an “interview” – one of which makes both of these guys pretty damn awkward. That Lipsky is already jealous of Foster Wallace for all of the fame and fortune he has seemingly gotten because of the book’s success, already not only draws him to the person, but also to the legend of who this guy really is. At the same time, however, he still has to do this interview with the guy, which tends to lead to the tense moments where he has to put away his hat of admiration, put back on his journalist one, and try to get the deepest, darkest secrets out of this guy, while at the same time, still not trying to offend him enough to where the interview is over and Lipsky has lost someone he could actually call “a friend”.
Same goes for Foster Wallace who, yes, is the one being interviewed, but also finds it quite comforting to actually be able to sit down and talk to someone who is actually interested in what he has to say, as well as understand all that he’s talking about. Still, because Foster Wallace was a very odd person and was reportedly on anti-depressants, he didn’t know what to say, or not to say to Lipsky and that tends to lead him to the same area where he doesn’t know if saying a lot is too much, or if saying nothing at all is fine, even if a bit rude.
Still though, despite this obvious issue between the two, they still clearly want to be great friends and adversaries, even if they’re only together for three or so days, due to this “interview”.
And it should be said that yes, Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg, other than being great in their own rights, share a wonderful bit of chemistry here that makes us cherish these two moments together all the more. Even though there’s always that discomforting sense of distrust between the two, there’s also the same feeling that, had they met under different circumstances, they would have been the very best of friends. Sure, they talk about everything in their lives, but also seem to be able to relate to one another in nice, funny ways that surprise even themselves. That’s why, it’s sometimes sad to see whenever the one gets uncomfortable and clearly not happy about something the other said or did; after all, the possibility of a meaningful friendship lies and it’s one that we actually want to see happen, even if we know, yes, it never did.
It’s sad, but oh so true.
Consensus: With two great performances from Eisenberg and especially, Segel, the End of the Tour gives both literary figures enough chemistry and persona to make their trip together not just an enjoyable one, but an interesting, if at times, weird one that ended way too soon and would, sadly, never happen again.
8.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz