Rarely do I come to the end of a film and walk out of the theater with one thought - Wow! that was a great film. It was not a great comedy or some coming of age story. It was not an epic period piece with a cast of thousands or scifi with computer aided effects that are unbelievable. The End of the Tour is an excellent movie. It is well cast with Jesse Eisenburg playing the role of David Lipsky, the Rolling Stones reporter who is interviewing David Foster Wallace, who is played by Jason Segel, just after Wallace's novel "Infinite Jest" was released to insane critical acclaim.
It is the true story of this interview between two very unlikely people over a period of five days based on the book by the same name written by Lipsky. Lipsky, a writer himself - although not nearly as successful at that time - at first sees Wallace as someone to be idolized. After all Wallace has done what all writers dream of - wrote and published a book that is reviewed as one the of masterpieces of the 19th and 20th centuries. His editor does not know whether Wallace is man or myth given all the stories about his checkered past. Lysky's first contact with Wallace is anything but friendly, when Wallace tells him to lose his phone number.
But soon the two settle into a relationship although Wallace is very complicated and private. He is terrified of fame and the power it may have. Lipsky's questions at the same time intrigue and scare Wallace. He fears how Lipsky may word the article and characterize his quotes to show him in some untrue way. Lipsky assures him that is not so and plows on. Segel plays Wallace as a big hulking character trying to fit into a world both not his size and that he is unsure of. While Lipsky is very small and lithe and easily makes his way around. Wallace can be endearing but is socially awkward and the price of fame is almost more than he can bare.
One cannot help but feel for Wallace's tragic figure. He let Lipsky come into his world and in some ways his worse fears came to bare- although, many only in his mind. When your mind is so big and your world is so small, it is not hard for there to be constant battles going on.
I knew the basic story line and characters before I went to see the film. But Eisenburg and Segel put so much emotion and energy into the characters - often just with subtle looks and few words. The dialogue is well written, the conversations and thoughts flow, and nothing is wasted. They played off each other well. There was electricity between them that sparked at times and was charged at other times. When it was all over, the story was played out so that I walked away knowing a lot more about the two authors and a little more about me.
Yes, Wallace died way too young. But this gives us more of an insight into the brilliance of the man and also how complicated he was. Genius is often troubled.
As a comic aside, Joan Cusak has a great role playing Patty the lady the publicist has assigned to drive Wallace around on the last stop of his tour.