The End Of The Tour – BFI LFF Review

In 2008, one of the most heralded writers in recent times succumbed to the pain of depression and committed suicide. The dearest fans of David Foster Wallace will no doubt feel cautious and anxious at how he will be perceived on the silver screen, particularly so giving that it is Jason Segel, more familiar with slacker comedies and Muppet revivals than biopic character acting. Pitted against the ever-reliable Jesse Eisenberg as author and journalist David Lipsky, The End Of The Tour is a memoir of Lipsky’s time interviewing Wallace on a book tour of Wallace’s masterful Infinite Jest in 1996 for Rolling Stone magazine.

Upon first encounters, Wallace appears apprehensive, cautious to opening his door to a stranger but more so how he will be perceived once the interview finds a final edit, ironic as it is Lipsky who seems somewhat out of his depth as someone unseasoned to interviewing but more so a fairly jealous author. The relationship quickly blossoms as the two bond and Wallace lowers his guard, his commentary becoming a never ending farm of glorious quotes about modernity, in effect creating  a magnetic charm towards him. Tension builds as Lipsky’s own ego and flirtation with Wallace’s former girlfriend becomes an irritant for Wallace. Lipsky is also pressured into pushing Wallace into revealing unsavoury allegations from his past as an alcoholic and apparent heroin user. Although Wallace’s fate is already known, you can’t help but root for a bond between the two as Wallace appears happy but as The End Of The Tour depicts, Wallace was a man continuously fighting ill thoughts particularly an ego complex.

The End Of The Tour is a well meaning and balanced piece of mumblecore that never feels artificial from director James Ponsoldt. Although there is not much of a physical transformation to Jason Segel, his performance makes him unrecognisable to the point I had to remind myself that this was Jason Segel. David Foster Wallace would probably never have approved, but many will agree Pondsoldt has created an extract in the life of Wallace that shows a complex mind full of greatness but tragically couldn’t settle in this world.

Chris Aitken

****

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