Published in Issue 16, Craccum Magazine 2015. View it here!
Jesse Eisenberg is what brought me to this film, and I will be forever grateful to him because of it. Knowing basically nothing about the story, I went in with an open mind and left in awe. A film that is both uplifting and sad, The End of the Tour is based upon Rolling Stones reporter David Lipsky’s (Eisenberg) book about the five days he spent interviewing author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segal). Wallace has just found fame with the huge success of his novel, Infinite Jest, and Lipsky, who is trying to find his own footing in the world of fiction writing, begs to be given the story.
Eisenberg is excellent as the nervous, envious and intelligent Lipsky, convincingly portraying a young writer eager to make his own mark on the literary scene. He is a likable character, and yet the skill that Eisenberg lends to the role is to never quite let viewers know where Lipsky stands. He has the power to shape his story on Wallace in a negative or positive light, and until the films’ end the direction he will choose remains ambiguous. While it is clear that he admires Wallace and enjoys his company, this does not stop him from snooping around Wallace’s house or insisting that his tape recorder remain on the majority of the time.
While Eisenberg upholds his impressive acting ability, it is Segal who really blows you away. There was a fair amount of controversy when Segal was cast as Wallace, largely based around the fact that the How I Met Your Mother star is not considered a ‘serious actor’, and Wallace himself was a deeply sad person. If he wasn’t a ‘serious actor’ before, he most certainly is now. He is awkward and shy and self-deprecating as Wallace, bewildered at suddenly being labelled ‘famous’ and sceptical of how this will affect his work. Segal gives us a raw performance that reveals the complexities of a man who was extraordinarily brilliant and perceptive, and yet also very lonely.
What makes this film so effective is that it’s not really about David Foster Wallace, as such. It is about Lipsky, examining Wallace, examining Lipsky; two writers at very different stages of their careers who learn a lot from – and about – each other during their five days together. Wallace committed suicide in 2008, but is still considered one of the greatest and most insightful writers today. “Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being,” the real Wallace said, and the film leaves viewers to dwell on this sentiment; on the nature of the novel and on the human condition.