The End of the Tour
Starring Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Mamie Gummer, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack, Ron Livingston,
The End of the Tour: What an extremely well crafted film! Usually, I’m disinclined toward movies that are primarily of two people having a conversation, but this is a notable exception where David Foster Wallace (Segal), a celebrated novelist (Infinite Jest), is continually spilling out pearls of wisdom when he is being interviewed for five days by Rolling Stones reporter David Lipsky (Eisenberg). According to Wikipedia, “The novel touches on many topics, including addiction and recovery, family relationships, entertainment and advertising, film theory, United States-Canada relations (as well as Quebec separatism), and tennis.” Mixed in with the pearls is the dross—Wallace’s self-deprecating, apologetic, self-contradicting comments that become of interest because they reveal so much about his person in such a brief period of time. Lipsky is a perfect foil by virtue of his admiration of the celebrated writer and their almost humorous competitiveness with one another over women. Wallace talks too long on the phone with Lipsky’s girlfriend, and Wallace accuses Lipsky of flirting with Wallace’s ex-girlfriend in the kitchen. (It was actually refreshing to see the two intellectual men behaving a bit macho.)
When Lipsky goes to interview Wallace, he is taken aback by the man’s eccentricity, which only serves to whet his interest. Wallace is obsessed with hurting others or using them, while at the same time, guiltily enjoying the adulation he is receiving. He seems to be in a constant dialog with himself about existential matters, comforted by the fact that he can “see everything” from his perspective, but finding that that keeps him from functioning at times. For instance, in reflecting on how people admire him and think he’s great, he can’t enjoy it because the higher the admiration, the more he fears being a fraud. Such insights as these keep Wallace in a constant state of unease.
Both actors seem hand-in-glove for their parts, but Segal is the biggest surprise.
Both actors seem hand-in-glove for their parts, but Segal is the biggest surprise in that he has mostly done comedy, but here he is a serious actor who knocks it out of the park. Eisenberg has been acknowledged numerous times by being nominated for awards, and he does an outstanding job here; it’s just that his role is secondary to Segal’s in this production, and Segal comes through with skills we didn’t know he has. Both are superb.
James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) has assembled a cast and crew that achieve perfection and balance under his direction. He wisely inserted characters on the tour that will balance out the philosophical discussions between the two men. On the tour, the “escort” (a cameo role for Cusack) is just what she is supposed to be, a cheerleader and guide for anything her visitors desire. Friends Julie (Gummer) and Sarah (Chlumsky) also provide interest and levity in their cameo roles.
I can’t say too much about the music by Danny Elfman; it captures every mood and goes with the story in a seamless progression.
An intelligent discourse on fame with existential musings.