The End of the Tour is based on Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky’s 2010 book, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, which is about Lipsky’s 5-five day interview with David Foster Wallace after the 1996 publication of his well-lauded novel Infinite Jest. Besides the general interview questions about the novel, Lipsky and Wallace discuss masculinity, fame, dogs, depression, food, culture, and an array of topics while traveling together on planes and cars.
I had high expectations for The End of the Tour, because I adored reading Wallace’s anthology, Consider the Lobster and Other Essays and listening to his Kenyon commencement speech nicknamed “This is Water.” The movie did not let me down. Set in flashbacks, the film explores the burgeoning friendship between interviewer and interviewee. Watching the film is similar to eavesdropping on a great conversation that you don’t want to stop listening in on. It’s an intellectual exercise in metacognition and a meditation on the male psyche. For instance, Wallace and Lipsky are in a diner, and Wallace explains to him that he is self-conscious on how he appears to others, and that Lipsky would be a better interviewee than him. Another instance is when Wallace and Lipsky discuss the pleasures of fast food and action films.
People know Jason Segel from How I Met Your Mother, Freaks and Geeks, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, all well-known comedic roles. I was transfixed by Segel as David Foster Wallace. I took double takes to see if I was watching the actor, or if I was watching the late writer. He dressed the part, wearing the iconic bandana with middle length stringy hair, layered clothing, and circular glasses. Little gestures such as saying, “I should offer you tea, or something,” and asking if there’s any artificial spit before a reading shows Segel’s ability to portray Wallace’s uncertainty of social norms.
Jesse Eisenberg plays a great foil to Jason Segel’s David Foster Wallace. As David Lipsky, he may not have the writing fame that Wallace has, but he does have the social skills that he lacks. There is subtle resentment that Lipsky has towards Wallace’s acclaim, while Wallace has resentment towards Lipsky’s social prowess. When Wallace confronts Lipsky for flirting with his ex-girlfriend, after he gave her his email address, it shows that even though someone may have fame and success, they can still have plenty of insecurities. There is a pivotal moment when the tour is done and Lipsky is driving Wallace home. They argue with each other, with Lipsky accusing Wallace that his “Average Joe” personality is a façade, and Wallace accusing Lipsky of not believing his responses. The scene goes to show that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
The End of the Tour made me have a greater appreciation for David Foster Wallace and it encouraged me to read all 1079 pages of Infinite Jest. I found a kindred spirit in Wallace because he always questioned his existence, his place in society, and culture. I recommend this film for the performances, character development, and for anyone interested in learning about David Foster Wallace.
The End of the Tour is playing in select theaters now.