The End of the Tour movie full length review - "The End of the Tour" is all talk... but it is fairly interesting talk.
Heard of David Foster Wallace? No? How about David Lipsky? Me neither. That's probably because I watch so many movies. These two men are writers and "The End of the Tour" (R, 1:46) is about the latter interviewing the former.
Like many Americans, for better or worse, the best way to get me to pay attention to writers is to put their work or their personal stories into a movie. Now the question is: Was it a movie worth making? Or, more to the point: Is it a movie that's worth your time and money? In 1996, Wallace (Jason Segel) was a college professor and author who had just published his magnum opus, "Infinite Jest". This book (officially categorized as an "encyclopedic novel") uses its story of a dystopian future to comment on, according to Wikipedia, "addiction and recovery, family relationships, entertainment and advertising, film theory, United States-Canada relations (as well as Quebec separatism), and tennis." The tome received glowing reviews from most critics, catching the attention of Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg), who was himself an author and a writer for "Rolling Stone" magazine. Encouraged by his girlfriend (Anna Chlumsky), Lipsky read the book, decided for himself the hype was justified, and convinced his editor (Ron Livingston) that a Wallace interview would make a good story.
Lipsky made the trip to Bloomington, Illinois, in order to meet Wallace and join him on the last leg of his book tour. The two men get to know each other as they drive around town, hang out at Wallace's modest rural home and then travel to Minneapolis and back. In Minneapolis, a publicist (Joan Cusack) picks up the two Davids at the airport, shows them around town and makes sure they get to Wallace's scheduled events. In the midst of the ongoing conversation between the two men, Lipsky observes Wallace at a book signing and during an NPR interview, along with getting to meet and hang out with Wallace's college girlfriend (Mickey Sumner) and a fan (Mamie Gummer) with whom Wallace had become friends. As their five days together progresses, Wallace and Lipsky get to know one another better? and they're not sure they like what they see in the other. The tensions between them calls into question how their relationship, the interview and the tour are ultimately going to end.
Wallace and Lipsky are two sides of the same coin. As Lipsky's inner monologue reveals to us, "He wants something better than he has. I want precisely what he has already." At this point in the lives of these two writers, Wallace is the more successful one, but also the more neurotic (part of his battle with depression), constantly expressing concern over how his statements will be perceived by the article's readers. He confesses to being "terrified" that his new-found fame will change him. "I have a real serious fear of being a certain way. I treasure my regular guy-ness", says Wallace, to which Lipsky responds, "You don't crack open a thousand-page book because you heard the author is a regular guy. You do it because he's brilliant." It seems that Wallace is the only one who doesn't realize (or can't accept) how special he is. "The more people think you're really great, the bigger the fear of being a fraud is," he reveals in one of many moments of raw honesty. It's a sentiment I think many successful people feel, but few would publicly admit. It's these kinds of insights that make this movie intriguing.
"The End of the Tour" is part biography and part character study, but not much else. It's basically two guys talking and would work well as a stage play? or a book. This movie represents the compilation of Lipsky's cassette tape recordings of his conversations with Wallace, which, along with his hand-written notes and personal recollections and insights make up his lauded 2010 book, "Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself". I feel that Eisenberg is miscast as a reporter and his performance is merely serviceable compared to Segel's who shows a range, intelligence, depth of feeling and a vulnerability that I've not previously seen from him. Segel reveals himself as a strong dramatic actor, as he simultaneously gives us a revealing glimpse into the life and mind of David Foster Wallace.
No, this movie isn't "exciting" in the usual big-screen sense, but that doesn't mean it isn't interesting. Of course, Wallace's fans are the most likely to be entertained by this film. The rest of us may enjoy Segel's performance, the well-written script and some insights into human nature, modern culture, fame and ambition, but I'm not sure this movie was the best platform for all that. Maybe I should just read Wallace's and Lipsky's books. The film about their time together gets a "C+".