The End of the Tour is about an interview between journalist David Lipsky and writer David Foster Wallace that took place during the course of 5 days, after the release of his book Infinite Jest. The interview was so memorable that Lipsky wrote a book about it, which has now been turned into a movie.
David Foster Wallace, in case you are unfamiliar with him, was an American writer. Seen as a troubled genius, he produced a small number of highly acclaimed books. Throughout his life he struggled with depression and addictions, and committed suicide in 2008, at the age of 48. Journalist David Lipsky, writing for the Rolling Stone magazine, interviewed Wallace during a 5-day road trip, and after hearing about Wallace’s suicide he wrote a memoir about that trip, titled “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself”. This film is loosely based on the memoir. Lipsky is played by Jesse Eisenberg, and David Foster Wallace by Jason Segel (also known from How I Met Your Mother (TV) and Forgetting Sarah Marshall).
As you’d expect, the film is first and foremost a character study of David Foster Wallace, and Jason Segel does an amazing job. But Wallace isn’t the main character. We start with Lipsky and his experience with meeting Wallace, and the man himself remains this enigmatic figure that we observe and wonder about. After a brief opening about Lipsky getting the job of interviewing Wallace, we dive right into it, and the dialogue between those two totally dominates the film for the rest of the running. And it’s just very well done, very captivating conversations, like a gentle Quentin Tarantino film.
Segel plays Wallace as a soft-spoken giant who is very honest and open about everything that he feels and thinks, and it catches Lipsky off guard. Eisenberg as Lipsky is good too as a reporter who finds out that it is just fascinating talking with this guy and loses track of his job. I have an irrational dislike about Jesse Eisenberg and I am not sure why, but in this movie he is a good everyday person who’s interested in listening and asking questions, and he is well cast for this. Wallace’s open way of speaking also forces Lipsky to get more personal too, and to show a bit of who he is.
I was mesmerized by the dance of dialogue between these two people. Wallace is so troubled but insanely thoughtful and personal. I don’t know what he was really like, but I know that his books are like that as well. At times there is this tension in the movie that Lipsky as a reporter is intruding in Wallace’s life. There’s a great part where they make each other jealous, because Lipsky is much more comfortable than Wallace in real life and chats up Wallace’s girlfriends, and Wallace then out of spite has a 25-minute phone conversation with Lipsky’s wife.
Verdict. The film feels realistic but also a bit empty, and starts to deflate near the end. It’s meaning is unclear. Was this meant to portray a picture of David Wallace? Was this about the temporary connection between Wallace and Lipsky, about the impact Wallace could have if you only spend a few days with him? It’s a nice movie that keeps you interested, but lacks punch in the end.