Exceptionally-crafted "The End of The Tour" is not your ordinary biopic
The End of the Tour is an exceptionally well crafted American drama-biopic directed by James Pondsoldt, written by Donald Margulies, and based on David Lipsky’s memoir "Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself". The film revolves around prodigious young author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), who burst on to the literary scene after writing Infinite Jest, and David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg), a journalist for Rolling Stone and an author himself who is sent to interview Wallace in 1996 following the books initial release, meeting at the tail-end of the subsequent book tour. The film is not biographical in the capacity of ‘the life and times of’ either Lipsky or Wallace, rather it is a biographical examination of two 30-something-year-old men, their unconventional relationship built over the five days, and their individual dealings with an existential crisis.
With the exception of a few minor supporting roles, namely Joan Cusack’s whimsical portrayal of Patty, Wallace’s Minneapolis driver, this dialogue-heavy film is almost entirely anchored by its two leading actors.
Jason Segel’s portrayal of David Foster Wallace is the highlight of the film for me. I’m not sure if that’s a sentiment shared by the more seasoned DFW fans, but going into the film relatively blind meant I was able to appreciate the performance without too many preconceptions. His demeanour is a perfect mix of both disenchanted nonchalance and apprehensive vulnerability- a performance that encapsulates the essence of the man, while leaving audiences wanting to know more about him. This aforementioned demeanour is seen most strikingly in an early scene between him and Lipsky, in which Wallace bluntly states, “I don’t even know if I like you yet’’ followed up by “… And I am so nervous about whether you like me.’’
Eisenberg’s portrayal of David Lipsky is, for the most part very solid - highly neurotic yet somewhat amiable. Unfortunately, it all seems a bit familiar. Perhaps it’s because I am unable to separate the Jesse Eisenberg of The End of the Tour, from say, the Jesse Eisenberg of The Social Network; he just seems to have this unshakable, punchably-smug air about him (your experience may vary). Considering that the film explores the themes of insecurity, jealousy and vulnerability, Eisenberg comes across as being a little too self-assured for the role. I should probably point out that this is more a criticism of Eisenberg’s lack of versatility, rather than the character he plays in the film. With that in mind, while he might not have many strings in his bow, what he does, he does well, and as the saying goes- if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Throughout the film, Pondsoldt explores the idealistic notion of life as a narrative, in that there is a beginning, middle and end and we are all working towards a fixed position at which point one finds ‘success’. Wallace and Lipsky are both published fictional authors who would both likely be considered successful by most, except by perhaps themselves. One thing that I think this movie tries to say is that if there really is such a point in life, how does one measure such a vague concept? Whether through credibility, authenticity, money or fame one thing’s for sure- it is something far easier to identify from the outside looking in. Though at times a little cynical, The End of the Tour puts this man-made conceptual construct that is success under the microscope and gives it a very thorough examination.
The End of the Tour is smart, self-aware, highly emotive and hands down one of best films of 2015. If the film doesn’t inspire you to read, or at least pretend to consider reading a 1000-plus page encyclopaedic novel, nothing will.