The End of the Tour

Last night I went to see “The End of the Tour”.

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I have to admit that prior to this film I had never heard of David Foster Wallace. I am also not a fan of Academy Award Nominee Jesse Eisenberg (yes, he was great in “The Social Network” but I couldn’t help but feel he was playing a version of himself). If I had never heard of David Foster Wallace and I don’t like Jesse Eisenberg then why on earth did I see “The End of the Tour” you may ask. Well the answer can be summed up in two words, Jason Segal. I had heard a lot great buzz about his performance. I really wanted him to give a great performance but I was a little nervous, just based on the costume and hair I feared that the performance could be a bit cartoonish.

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But I was willing to take the risk.

Since I was not familiar with the work of David Foster Wallace or David Lipsky I had absolutely no idea of what to expect going into the film. And for that I am extremely grateful. Too many times films are ruined by high expectations. If we saw more films with the little to no expectations I really believe we would enjoy them more.

To be frank there isn’t all that much to the story. It is simply the story of how David Lipsky (Eisenberg) followed David Foster Wallace (Segal) on the last days of his book tour in 1996 to promote his acclaimed book, “Infinite Jest” while interviewing him for Rolling Stone magazine.

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That sounds simple enough, if not a little bit boring. But that is what makes the film so brilliant. It doesn’t need bells and whistles. It doesn’t need explosions and CGI. It is the story of two educated men, both writers and where they were at that moment in time. There are moments where the film is a little slow but that’s okay. The film is a little philosophical and poses questions like; what does it mean to be successful? Does success mater if you don’t have anybody to share it with? How much of yourself do you share with strangers? As a writer how much of yourself do you put on the page? It may sound pretentious but it’s not. It’s more like a conversation that you might have with a friend. It’s not the kind of film that is going to blow you away in the moment but it is the kind of film that will leave you thinking afterwards. And isn’t that the ultimate difference between a film and a movie? A movie is there to entertain, while a film can make you think, films have the potential to be art.

I was truly impressed with Jason Segal. His performance was everything I wanted it to be. He managed to strip away all of the characters I’ve seen him play before and truly become the person he was playing. Since I had no prejudice in my mind of who David Foster Wallace was I didn’t have anybody to compare Segal to, and that worked to his advantage. His performance wasn’t a caricature, it was a real flesh and blood person who is quite complex.

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As for Eisenberg…I know it’s not his fault he has that high whiney voice and resting asshole face. Somehow, for most of the film he managed to create a character that wasn’t the usual smarmy jerk I’ve seen him play before. And even when David Lipsky slips into that it seems to have a motivation that makes sense.

THE END OF THE TOUR, Jesse Eisenberg, 2015. ©Universal

Segal has the flashier role but Eisenberg is also impressive because for the first time I didn’t want to throw something at him (that may seem like a backhanded compliment but I once felt that way about Penelope Cruz and now I think she is actually a very good actress).

The film depends on Segal and Eisenberg. If either of them had dropped the ball then the film would have failed. However, there are small supporting roles from Anna Chlumsky, Ron Livingston and Joan Cusack that are nice additions to the film.

The film is in limited release but I think it will be around for a while. I believe that Jason Segal (and perhaps Eisenberg as well) has a very real chance at an Oscar nomination come awards season. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t familiar with David Foster Wallace or not “The End of the Tour” is worth your time if you like grown up films, about grown ups having grown up conversations.

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