‘The End of the Tour’
Director: James Ponsoldt
Stars: Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg
4 (out of 5) Globes
As thoughtfully made and gracefully acted as it is, there’s something unclean about “The End of the Tour.” Concerning a figure, late author David Foster Wallace, who likely would have found being the focus of a film icky and created against the wishes of his Trust, it threatens to be mere grave-robbing, pitching viewers a movie version of a complex and private titan. However accurate it is — and some of those who knew him, like the critic Glenn Kenny, say it misrepresents him — getting something out of it requires divorcing one’s self from the truth. One must treat its version of Wallace as a character inspired by the real deal — a creation of actor Jason Segel.
For what it’s worth, the discomfort of representing someone is the film’s main beef. Culled from David Lipsky’s book “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself,” which regurgitated a handful of days the journo/author spent with him for an aborted Rolling Stone piece, the film frontloads what appear to be its own anxieties. Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) shows up in Wallace’s middle-of-nowhere, snowcaked Illinois home with an agenda: profile the hot new literary rock star, right after the release of his 1996 doorstop “Infinite Jest,” but also grill him for details about his turbulent past. Cold and intimidating during their first phone convo, Wallace proves to be gregarious and open in person. He offers Lipsky his spare bedroom and soon confesses that he wants Lipsky to like him. Vice versa.
“The End of the Tour” is in essence a talking picture — a “My Dinner with Andre” or one of the “Sunset” movies, albeit in various locations over days and with more of a traditional arc. But most of it is about conversation, arranged by director James Ponsoldt (“The Spectacular Now”) as a series of deceptively plain long takes and shot-reverse shots. We get lost in talk, as do Wallace and Lipsky, who seem to forget that they’re essentially collaborating on a piece, even addressing it in a way that bonds them in mutual unease. The job aspect is always in the back of their minds, coating their interactions in professionalism. They go from awkward strangers to new buds to, eventually, somewhere more complex, especially once first blush fades and their neuroses start poking out. But for most of its length it’s a movie about not having any drive, about not wanting to do anything but talk.