1. WHAT MOVIE THIS REVIEW IS ABOUT
James Ponsoldt’s The End of the Tour, written by Donald Margulies, based on Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself by David Lipsky, featuring Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel. Financed by Anonymous Content, Modern Man Films, and Kilburn Media. An A24 Films release. Copyright 2015.
2. OTHER TANGENTIAL THINGS THIS REVIEW IS KIND OF ABOUT
Literary Celebrity, The So-Called and Very Real “Wallace Industry,” Depictions of Depression in Film & TV, Adapting Non-Fiction for the Screen, Celebrity Suicide, The Ethics of Profiting In Even Small Ways From Celebrity Suicide, Wallace as Person v. Wallace as Writer, How Much and How Little Anyone Can Really Know Anyone, Really
TRIVIA TIDBIT: In order to attract the attention of the dogs who portray Wallace’s dogs, Jeeves and The Drone, raw meat had to be placed in the pants of both Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg. It is unclear what effect, if any, this had on actors’ performances.
3. RECENTISH ENTERTAINMENTS JAMES PONSOLDT HAS DIRECTED/WILL SOON DIRECT
Smashed (2012), The Spectacular Now (2013), S05E06 of NBC’s Parenthood (2013), S04E06 of Showtime’s Shameless (2014), The Pilot of Aziz Ansari’s Master of None (Premiere 11/6/15), The Circle (2016)
4. WHAT THE END OF THE TOUR IS EXPLICITLY ABOUT
The five days journalist David Lipsky (Eisenberg) spent interviewing novelist David Foster Wallace (Segel) in the winter of ’96, following the mammoth commercial and critical success of Wallace’s 1079-page novel Infinite Jest.
4A. WHAT THE END OF THE TOUR IS THEMATICALLY ABOUT
“America,” Art, Entertainment, Chewing Tobacco, Distraction, Die Hard, Addiction, Soda, Depression, John Travolta Being Impaled Through the Abdomen by a Missile, Dogs, Authenticity, Male Friendship, Journalistic Ethics, Pleasure, What Happens When An Alpha Male Writer Who’s Dying To Be A Beta Male Writer Meets a Beta Male Writer Who’s Dying To Be An Alpha Male Writer, But Also Kind Of None of Those Things
5. A LIST OF JUST SOME OF THE BOOKS PUBLISHED BY DAVID FOSTER WALLACE SINCE HIS DEATH IN 2008, TO MAKE NO MENTION OF THE SCORES IF NOT HUNDREDS MORE WRITTEN ABOUT HIM
This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, About Living a Compassionate Life (2009), Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will (2010), The Pale King (2012), David Foster Wallace: The Last Interview and Other Conversations (2012), Both Flesh and Not (2013), Signifying Rappers (Reprint, 2013), The David Foster Wallace Reader (2014), On Tennis: Five Essay (2014)
6. WHY THIS LIST OF POSTHUMOUS PUBLICATIONS BEARS MENTIONING
Pretty much all of Wallace’s writing that’s been published since his 9/12/08 suicide comes packaged with a general self-sickening ickiness about the sometimes questionable quality of the work and the always unquestionable financial agenda belying it. This spiritual nausea goes beyond the usual queasiness one feels reading other dead writers’ unpublished marginalia or journals or whatnot as a result of Wallace’s own well-publicized spirit nausea about his fame, its validity, how his celebrated public persona clashed with the fucked, damaged essence of his actual private self. Like the industry that now surrounds his name, The End of the Tour is too reverent of DFW to make a believable human person out of DFW, and so what you get is this bandana-ed Midwest Buddha regurgitating every soundbite Wallace ever uttered. It’s a consumable 2D reduction of a 3D human being whose whole raison d’etre was a trenchant unwillingness to be reduced. You rarely get the sense that this thing needed to exist, because as a piece of art it probably didn’t.
7. SOME OF THE GOOD ASPECTS OF THIS MOVIE THOUGH
Jason Segel as Wallace is the best scenario fans of the author could have hoped for. One easy way to tell he’s “in it” is that he’s at his best when he’s not saying anything at all, i.e. vegetating infantily in front of a TV, or lumbering back to Illinois isolation, ice scraper clenched in his giant, ursine hands. Eisenberg is an ideal foil for him, in physicality and in temperament. Most of the movie is them doing nothing, talking about nothing, and it should be a lot less watchable than it is. A scene in which Lipsky, while Wallace is outside, scrambles around Wallace’s house, rapidly recording details to round out his article, shows a lived-in world and psychology, not just a set. David Foster Wallace slept under a Barney towel. The movie’s heart isn’t fully in the right place but it’s close, which is another way of say it’s not heartless.
8. SOME MORE BAD ASPECTS OF THIS MOVIE THOUGH
It’s a movie about a book tour. A substantial part of it is set in Minneapolis. The dearth of action dictates a painfully telegraphed escalation of personal stakes between Wallace and Lipsky, though neither character appears to have much to gain or lose. You can hear Wallace’s whole family groan through the last scene at the foghorn-volume of a God fart. That Wallace’s estate opposed The End of the Tour should surprise approximately no one. This is a film made for the readers of This Is Water, not “The Depressed Person” or Infinite Jest. A genuine testament to Wallace’s memory would have dramatized the excruciating composition of that truly great novel, the years Wallace spent drinking himself into unfeeling, watching Beethoven on repeat and showing up to his ex-girlfriend’s daughter’s birthday party with a handgun. When The End of the Tour does get ugly, it does it in the politest possible manner. The Wallace Estate denouncing the movie should have freed its makers to tear down the DFW monument. They’ve opted to further gild the foundation.
9. A CONTINUITY ERROR THAT JUST PISSED ME OFF
Near the end of the film, Lipsky gives a reading from Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, and states that, “Whenever I think of David, I think of the two of us in the front seat of his car…” Wallace and Lipsky never once drive in Wallace’s car.
10. A POTENTIALLY RELEVANT QUOTE FROM THE NOVELIST UMBERTO ECO THAT COULD DOUBLE AS A SOLID RULE OF THUMB RE THE MAKING OF BIOPICS ABOUT DEAD FICTION WRITERS GOING FORWARD, AS IF ANOTHER ONE WILL EVER BE MADE AGAIN
Eco: “…the novels are my autobiography.”
Final Strawberry Verdict: 3.75 Strawberries out of 5