Wednesday, September 2, 2015


Jason Segel's performance in THE END OF THE TOUR is getting raves from film critics and many of my Hollywood friends. I can see why. It's a challenging role. Playing the author David Foster Wallace just after his book INFINITE JEST was published and already garnering outsized acclaim, would be enough of a test of your acting skills, but doing it in a film whose premise is pretty thin dramatically—a reporter working for ROLLING STONE interviews Wallace at his Midwest home and on a trip to a Minneapolis bookstore over a two-or-three-day period—and holding the screen is even more impressive.

Jesse Eisenberg plays the reporter, novelist David Lipsky who wrote a book about his experience over those few days with Wallace which the film is based on. And as usual Eisenberg does his best to portray conflicting emotions in almost every close up and often succeeds. Watching these two unique film actors play competing authors of more-or-less the same generation at a time when one of them is succeeding in ways only a handful of writers ever do is what makes the film compelling.

Not that it always is. At moments there is almost a profundity to the minimalist dialogue especially on Segel/Wallace's part. But at times there's also a bit of preciousness with the ways authors' ambitions and disappointments are elevated to almost deity status through lingering close ups of silent reactions etc.

I am happy that a movie got made about writers and with only one brief scene of a writer (Eisenberg/Lipsky) at the keyboard. And even happier that a movie got made about writers talking about writing and about the meaning of art and life. Even if I believe anyone with a camera could have made a more entertaining and enlightening film by following pretty much any of my writer friends around talking with pretty much any of my other writer friends.

I am also happy that the movie manages to work in its own way on its own terms despite the scarcity of any real drama or narrative outside the time limits of a magazine interview (would have loved to have seen excerpts of that interview as it appeared in ROLLING STONE at the end of the flick but no such luck).  The writer friend I saw it with loved it, as have other writer friends. Love would be too strong a term for my reaction, but appreciation works for most of what it accomplished, as modest as that turned out to be.


tpw said...

Did you hear Jonathan Franzen on Fresh Air? He was close friends with Wallace & discusses how opposed he & Wallace's friends & family were to this movie.

Lally said...

I missed the franzen broadcast but I did hear from others that Wallace's family was against it and easy to see why, how can you summarize a man and his life and perspective etc. when you only spent two or three days with him once. Like I said in the post, the movie is slight as a result, but it's still fun I think (at least for for writers) to see a film about two writers no matter how limited...