I am at my second Sundance Film Festival. These are my reviews.
The End of the Tour
DIRECTOR: James Ponsoldt
SCREENWRITER: Donald Margulies
PRINCIPAL CAST: Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack, Mamie Gummer, Mickey Sumner
U.S.A., 2014, 105 min., color
Plot (courtesy of Sundance): This story of the five-day 1996 interview between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace explores the tenuous yet intense relationship
that develops between journalist and subject. The two men bob and weave, sharing laughs, and also concealing and revealing their hidden vulnerabilities.
Review: I have a history with Infinite Jest. I bought the giant, thousand-page book because I wanted to be the guy who loved that book. Sure, there are thousands out there who have enjoyed the novel by David Foster Wallace, but I wasn’t friends with them. So, I read it. That’s not true, I started and failed. There was something part about tennis, that’s all I can recall. I remember I was so intimidated with the thing. I carried that book around for more than 15 years, assuming, and hoping I would dive back in (and appreciate it). Finally, on my last move I said goodbye. I felt a failed relief with letting that book go. Wallace’s suicide didn’t get me to go back, The End of the Tour will succeed in me revisiting this old intimidating friend/enemy of a book.
I know I didn’t describe the movie for you, but I definitely just did for me. This is a film about two writers who are worlds apart, but trying to find a certain connection over a very short period of time. It’s a bromance, but without the usual layers of “definitely best friends” or “forced together enemies.” Lipsky (Eisenberg) slightly checks his own author-ego to do a piece for Rolling Stone interviewing David Foster Wallace (Segel). They go to the last stop of a book tour and Wallace grants Lipsky pretty good access. Actually, as someone who has interviewed celebrities, trust me, this is dream access. Wallace is played with a lovely, delicate touch by Segel. He over-analyzes fame, friendship, and motivations. Lines like, “I should offer you a tea or something,” shows just how difficult it is for Wallace to connect.
There are so many little things that are quickly focused on with this film that make it feel terribly authentic. Wether it is changing batteries to play an old recorder, or looking for a parked car, it draws you in and makes you feel connected to this film, these characters, and potentially the people it is based on. “Based on a true story” should ALWAYS be understood as fiction first, but hopefully Wallace’s joy of watching Broken Arrow at the Mall of America is real. I need that feeling to be real. It allows me to think that lonely man who sadly took his own life is accessible, and therefore his work will connect with me when I finally pick up that big, bulky book, almost 20 years after I bought it.
The ending of this film feels like a Sunday before school, or the end of a vacation. I was realizing this road trip film was coming to an end, and I felt sad. I fell in love with The End of the Tour, my first truly amazing Sundance 2015 film.