The End of the Tour

Year: 2015
Production Co: Modern Man Films
Director: James Ponsoldt
Writer: Donald Margulies/David Lipsky
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel, Joan Cusack, Anna Chlumsky

One detail of this movie almost disconnected me from it completely. Most screenwriters are fascinated with the profession of journalism but either don't know how journalists really behave or choose to ignore it to invent drama.

As Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky, I found Jesse Eisenberg irritating bordering on unwatchable. If it wasn't his cynical chuckle every time he spoke, it was the way – despite his subject David Foster Wallace showing him nothing but hospitality and kindness – Lipsky acts like a complete arsehole when he lets his own insecurities and neuroses take over. A real reporter wouldn't have the balls or bad sense to treat a subject that way.

The only reason I wanted to watch this movie was a curiosity about what Wallace was like (even if it was only a sliver that was imagined by a screenwriter). Segel gives a brilliant performance, portraying Wallace as a seeming contradiction – a suburban slob who just wants to get laid and who loves junk food, but who has a depth of quiet intelligence that he not only doesn't crow about or let through much, but which you rarely see in anyone.

Of course he did let it through once, in Infinite Jest, his impenetrable and borderline nonsensical doorstop of a novel (which everyone who's cleverer than you in the media trumpeted as the best thing since The Bible).

It prompts Lipsky to ask his editor to let him shadow Wallace at the end of his Infinte Jest book tour, so he flies to the snowy suburban land of Wallace's hometown, staying in the writer's house and accompanying him to various press events over the course of a few days.

As you'd expect, the movie is about Lipsky (and us) getting an insight into the mind everyone in literary circles was already describing as coming once in a generation.

Lipsky, as a journalist and therefore aspiring great literary novelist himself, has to do his job and not idolise Wallace, but the story's also about the scientific principle of observation changing both the subject and the observer, both Wallace and Lipsky learning about and sometimes tripping over each others' personalities, proclivities and expectations.

There are also themes of the strange practice of celebrity worship, how we come to believe great artists, business or statespeople are somehow beyond human but how we're shocked when they reveal themselves to be not only regular people but in Wallace's case, shockingly normal, his brilliance only visible here and there through conversation with Lipsky.

Based on the non fiction book by the real Lipsky about his time with Wallace, there's a little bit about Lipsky himself and his professional dreams and frustrations, but that's just the framing device (and you'll tune it all out soon enough anyway thanks to Eisenberg's annoying manner).

The real stars are the combination of the script during the scenes of Wallace and Lipsky talking, and comic actor Segel bringing it to life with a level of detailed humanity we rarely see from any actor.

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