Saturday, August 29, 2015

The End Of The Tour Review

You know how they say to never meet your heroes? Well, that's just what David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) is off to do, as he's gotten the chance to interview David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) for the Rolling Stone magazine. Meeting the famous author at the tail end of a press tour for his newest book is an interesting experience for Lipsky, mainly because Wallace defies his expectations at every twist and turn in their brief but tremendous time together.

Eisenberg has played a lot of characters in his career who could be best described as "nerdy", or as he gets older, "the intellectual". But his talent as an actor has been upending the norms of that archetype to unveil the more nuanced parts of his characters (see: The Social Network, The Squid and The Whale, Adventureland). Happily, he pulls off that sort of tactic here with David Lipsky, making him both a great audience surrogate for the David Foster Wallace interviews and as a layered character in his own right. With a strongly written script at his aid, Eisenberg brings gripping and genuine admiration and dismay in his numerous encounters with Wallace.

Ah, David Foster Wallace, the figure who this whole story centers around. Jason Segel plays the real-life author in this motion picture, marking a leap from comedic features to a more dramatic role that he pulls off perfectly. The script by Donald Marguiles (adapting the book Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself written by David Lipsky) offers Wallace several opportunities to ruminate on a wide variety of topics ranging from the role of technology in everyday life to the values of junk food.

In even the shortest soliloquy, Segel incorporates several unique traits to the character, namely a bandanna enhanced physical look that's 100% accurate to the real life David Foster Wallaces appearance. Vocally, each sentence that glides out of Wallace is delivered with conviction, but he's also got a large share of vulnerability in his large-scale inquiries. This cadence really accentuates the humanity in this author, a man who Lipsky expects to discover is some sort of all-knowing figure and instead is a far more fascinating individual haunted by his own distinct flaws and the larger existential questions associated with existence. That's the sort of nuance that Segel gets across even in the shortest bursts of screentime and it's just one of of countless parts of the performance that makes it such a revelatory turn for the actor.

Return to the director chair after helming The Spectacular Now, one of my favorite movies of 2013, James Ponsoldt actually had me worried at the start of this motion picture, as the way he visually depicts the start of Davids journey felt more perfunctory than anything else. But my concerns, thankfully, vanished as he thrives as a director when depicting Lipsky and Wallace just engaging in conversation. Watching Wallace contemplate large scale ideas is riveting on its own and Ponsoldt realizes that these scenes don't need gratuitous visual trickery to make these scenes gripping. Instead, solid framing and staging that helps keep the conversations flowing in terms of pacing is the kind of   subtle but effectual work that really makes a world of difference for the overall motion picture.

Going this more subdued directional route is especially appreciative since, like I said, Wallace is already pretty damn fascinating in his own right. There's an inescapable high-minded vibe to his thoughts, which are endlessly fascinating on all sorts of levels. Segel and Eisenberg have an easygoing chemistry that does ensure that the exchanges retain an informal air keeping the movies several tete-a-tete's between the duo engrossing. Thank God the two bounce off each other so well, as it'd be a shame for The End Of The Tour to poorly execute an opportunity to allow the audience to get enraptured in the thoughts of David Foster Wallace.

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