In 1996, reputable publication Rolling Stone sent a young writer named David Lipsky out on assignment. For five days, Lipsky was to tag along with wunderkind novelist David Foster Wallace as he embarked upon a tour in support of what was then his latest novel, the famously lengthy and staggeringly detailed tennis/addiction rehab/international geoterrorism/dysfunctional-family saga Infinite Jest. Lipsky met Wallace at a pivotal moment, when the undeniable brilliance of the man’s writing first became apparent to the general public, who foisted literary celebrity upon a guy too beset by anxiety and self-doubt to process it. Naturally, Wallace resisted the troubled-genius narrative that Lipsky tried to impose on him through the Rolling Stone profile, and their twisty conversations about fame, entertainment, identity, and honesty formed the basis of Lipsky’s 2010 book Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself.
That book formed the basis of The End Of The Tour, a new semi-biopic from The Spectacular Now director James Ponsoldt. The reliably affable Jason Segel takes a dramatic turn to portray Wallace, while Jesse Eisenberg plays Lipsky. Together, they’ll gently interrogate the core dishonesty of the profile, a form that necessarily reduces and confines a human being into a knowable entity, teasing out more profound truth about life along the way. Our man Noel Murray spoke positively of the film when he caught it at Sundance, reporting, “…I love that for a conversational film that touches on so many big topics, The End Of The Tour is ultimately about so something as small and specific as a socially awkward guy trying to impress someone that he knows is his superior. That taut, narrow through-line enhances the tension and stakes of every back-and-forth between these two men. Sometimes Lipsky and Wallace are simpatico, and all is well. But when the hulking Wallace loses his patience, he’s as intimidating as any CGI monster.” If I knew how to embed footnotes on our CMS, I’d do so here to instruct you to watch the trailer below:
The trail of the tape
Title: The End Of The Tour
Director: James Ponsoldt
Screenwriter: Donald Margulies
Cast: Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg
Release date: July 31, 2015
The entire trailer in one line of dialogue: “If a book is about anything, it’s about the question of ‘why?’ Why am I doing it, and what’s so American about what I’m doing?”
The entire trailer in one screengrab:
As a young white man who majored in English during his undergraduate college education, I am contractually obligated to hold Wallace up as a minor deity. (Despite the fact that, as a guy who makes a living by making snippy jokes on the Internet, I represent much of what Wallace loathed about this world prior to his suicide in 2008.) But all of my unsolicited cocktail-party tirades about my favorite Enfield Tennis Academy attendees can’t detract from the towering value of Inifinite Jest, or the enduring fascination of DFW, both as man and myth. Ponsoldt’s film has been a hot topic of discussion for obsessives since it was first announced. Now that The End Of The Tour has gained wider critical traction (and generated some exciting awards chatter for Segel), it seems destined to enjoy more far-reaching acknowledgement and may even turn some of the uninitiated on to Wallace’s works.