Directed by James Ponsoldt / Written by Donald Margulies / Starring Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg & Mamie Gummer
David Lipsky: You don’t crack open a thousand-page book because the guy who wrote it is like every other guy. You do it because he’s brilliant.
In 1996, Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky came across American author, David Foster Wallace’s epic novel “Infinite Jest”. His mind blown, he convinced the magazine’s editor to allow him to pursue a feature story on the writer and join him for the last few days of his book tour. The time they spent together and the conversations they had left a lasting impression on Lipsky, and following Wallace’s suicide in 2008, the journalist penned the memoir “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself” in honour of the troubled genius.
Lipsky’s memoir provides the basis for new movie THE END OF THE TOUR, starring Jesse Eisenberg (AMERICAN ULTRA) as Lipsky and Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother) as Wallace. The film is directed by James Ponsoldt (THE SPECTACULAR NOW) from a screenplay written by Donald Margulies (DINNER WITH FRIENDS), who was actually one of Ponsoldt’s college professors. Both longtime fans of Wallace’s work, Ponsoldt and Margulies’ efforts bring a portrait of the man to the screen that is both honest and incredibly endearing.
The story starts off in 2008 with Lipsky hearing the news of Wallace’s untimely passing. He scrambles through boxes in his closet, finally finding the old cassettes that documented his time with the writer for five days 12 years prior. Clicking “play”, the audio begins and the narrative goes back in time to how the odd relationship started.
What’s most appealing about THE END OF THE TOUR is just how rich it is – emotionally, intellectually, and artistically. Margulies’ script is such that you immediately wish you could re-watch the film, your remote’s pause button at the ready, so you can properly digest Lipsky and Wallace’s interchanges. The often-witty banter is constantly punctuated with genuine insight reminiscent of your best college philosophy course, so it’s worthwhile to pay attention.
And then there’s the cast. Eisenberg steps easily into the role of Lipsky, convincingly playing the part of a reporter whose fascination with his subject is rather tempered by his drive to get a good story. You see his emotional bond to Wallace forming, even as he’s secretly rummaging through the contents of the author’s medicine cabinet.
Segel’s performance is nothing short of spectacular. There’s really nothing else to say about it except that his portrayal of Wallace makes you wish you’d paid more attention to the man while he was still with us.
Had David Foster Wallace not passed away so tragically, who knows what would have become of that interview between him and Lipsky. The Rolling Stone article never actually saw the light of day and Lipsky likely would not have been moved to write a book on the experience. But genius is ultimately most fascinating when it is paired with tragedy. THE END OF THE TOUR comes off as a genuine tribute to both the genius and the tragedy and every moment should be savoured.