Film Reviews

SO IT GOES – <i>The End of the Tour</i> (2015)

SO IT GOES – The End of the Tour (2015)

Sarah Gough-Piazza

September 3rd, 2015

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 As an avid reader of author David Foster Wallace, I was nervous when I heard that David Lipsky’s famous “lost five-day” interview with the author was being made into a movie. The ability to successfully and respectfully portray one of the most complex and emotionally complicated authors of the 20th century is a feat that would be easy to mess up, which is what I was certain would happen. The End of the Tour was a complete surprise.

Directed by James Ponsoldt, The End of the Tour follows Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and the story of his five-day interview with renowned novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel). The movie begins with the news that David Foster Wallace has committed suicide, followed by Lipsky’s reaction. Then the movie flashes back to 1996, right after the release of one of Wallace’s more widely known novels, Infinite Jest, as Lipsky decides to follow Wallace on tour so he can profile the author for Rolling Stone. However, as these five days pass, it becomes evident that Lipsky and Wallace become more than the interviewer and the interviewed, developing a sort of trust and friendship.

Lipsky personifies the Hollywood stereotype of the reporter: a weasel-like snitch who would do anything for a story. However, one would think that as the story of his and Wallace’s friendship progresses, so would his character. He does not. Even towards the end of the movie, Lipsky is shown having an intimate moment with Wallace, only to have Lipsky go back to his investigative and invasive way of reporting once Wallace leaves the room. Lipsky doesn’t evolve during the majority of the film, which takes place in 1996. The audience wants to root for him, a man changed by the experience of being around a different environment and community away from the hustle and pressure of the New York journalistic life, but he never progresses. 

Only during the 2008 “present,” once Lipsky learns of Wallace’s death by suicide, does the audience sees a more sensitive and human-like character. While this is a unexpected and wonderful development in character, the five minutes in which we see this side of Lipsky are way too short to make a difference. Eisenberg plays both of these roles extremely well: the sympathetic friend, as well as the story-obsessed journalist. However, it would have been a nice if screenwriter Donald Margulies, adapting Lipsky’s book, had allowed Lipsky to deviate from the journalist stereotype, giving the audience two characters to celebrate, instead of one.     

As a person who has seen the progression in humor of Jason Segel from Freaks and Geeks and How I Met Your Mother, I expected that Segel would be unable to fully capture the dark essence of David Foster Wallace. I was pleasantly surprised. Segel exceeds every expectation in his portrayal, able to fully capture Wallace’s seriousness and his struggles with depression, as well as his the writer’s humanistic silliness. It felt as if the audience was actually watching David Foster Wallace the person rather than a character — truly the feat of a talented actor.

The End of the Tour was a complete surprise. Rather than making the entire movie about the relationship between the two men, it shows a more complex growth in character while also establishing the introverted David Foster Wallace’s ability to trust a stranger whose entire purpose is to expose him. Essentially, The End of the Tour is less about exposing David Foster Wallace, the famous writer, than it is about exposing David Foster Wallace, the person living in Illinois who wrote an award-winning novel. This is a refreshing twist on the common biographic film, a truly stunning small look into the life of David Foster Wallace.

The End of the Tour continues its run at the Bijou Metro. Click here for showtimes.

Sarah Gough-Piazza is a senior at the University of Oregon studying comparative literature with a concentration in German and creative writing. She spends her time obsessively browsing YouTube and Tumblr, and has come to the conclusion that she likes dogs more than humans. So It Goes is an irregular column in which she provides critical analyses of films screening locally.

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