James Ponsoldt’s intimate and deeply moving The End of the Tour is a cinematic adaptation of David Lipsky’s memoir, “Although You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace.” Given the love I have for Ponsoldt’s poignant coming-of-age story The Spectacular Now, a picture that made me cry on more than one occasion, I had high expectations for The End of the Tour, and it certainly did not disappoint.
Jesse Eisenberg stars as Lipsky, who, when the film begins in 2008, is shocked when a colleague informs him that Wallace had committed suicide. The film then flashes back to 1996, when Lipsky was a journalist working for Rolling Stone, and Wallace is in the midst of a book tour for what is now his most widely renowned work, “Infinite Jest.” Immensely impressed with the book, Lipsky pitches to his editor that he should conduct an interview with Wallace, in spite of the fact that the publication has never run a piece on an author before. Despite his editor’s hesitance, Lipsky ends up traveling out to meet the famous writer, beautifully played by Jason Segel, and accompanies him on the rest of his excursion to advertise his acclaimed novel.
Based on this fairly routine premise, which may sound a bit like Cameron Crowe’s delightful crowdpleaser, Almost Famous, it seems as if the film could come off as a flimsy, highly fabricated buddy movie, but The End of the Tour is aware of its genre trappings, exceeding past the expected clichés you’re afraid it’ll delve into. The film wisely addresses Wallace’s tragic outcome beforehand, avoiding a manipulative, melodramatic conclusion designed to yank the viewer’s heartstrings, in order to let the relationship these two gentlemen take center stage over their predetermined fates. It isn’t about where these men are now, but what they learned from one another over time, especially when it comes to their idealistic values of artistic expression, success and self-worth.
The heartfelt, sometimes painfully intimate script allows Eisenberg and Segel to breathe life into these real-life individuals at a leisurely pace that perfectly fits the tone of the film’s themes. Eisenberg’s endearing depiction of Lipsky is terrific; consistently looking up to Wallace as a literary idol, eager to unravel all of his idiosyncrasies with the hope that it’ll enlighten him on obtaining a similarly prosperous status as a writer. Segel is even better, delivering a restrained, heart-rending portrayal of Wallace, who’s realizing that achieving your dreams doesn’t always deliver the feelings of self-assurance that one may desperately desire. His conversations with Eisenberg on the isolation he feels as a result of his depression, despite his universal sense of acclaim he’s received from the media, are heartbreakingly effective, and are bound to move many viewers to tears.
As an aspiring writer who also struggles with similar issues regarding mental illness, this film really struck a chord with me. Ponsoldt’s sympathetic outlooks on Eisenberg’s earnest striving for greatness and Segel’s longing for self-acceptance are conveyed in an authentic perspective devoid of any Hollywood fluff, piercing deep into the tender, but necessary aspects of life that everyone must face. Regardless of your knowledge and appreciation for Wallace, Lipsky, or writing in general, this film is a lovely meditation on cherishing what’s important in life, and the emotional hardships we face as a result of our own immeasurable ambitions.
Director: James Ponsoldt
Film Length: 106 minutes
Release Date: July 31, 2015 (Wide)
Distributor: A24 Films