Friday, July 31, 2015

Movie with Abe: The End of the Tour

The End of the Tour
Directed by James Ponsoldt
Released July 31, 2015

A few short words in a film’s title can say a lot. “The End of the Tour” gives its subject matter a certain finality, referencing not just the tour itself but the fact that it has ended or will soon end. It begins at a future point at which reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) learns via a casual phone call from a friend that author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) has died. This saddening news causes Lipsky to flash back to a time twelve years earlier when he convinced his boss to send him to Illinois to join Wallace at the end of a book tour, an unforgettable experience whose moments of conversation serve as the framework for this film.

Lipsky is introduced as a character in his own right, also the author of a successful novel though hardly receiving the same kind of accolades and worship as Wallace. Unsure of what he will encounter, Lipsky brings a copy of his own book along once he pesters his editor enough to send him on a fact-finding mission to interview the man and discover his story. Wallace is at first guarded, mostly a facet of his personality and the manner in which he speaks, and on a number of occasions remarks that he should write a book about Lipsky writing about him.

That analytical nature is central to this film, which consists mostly of scenes of Lipsky and Wallace talking, the former always at the ready with his tape recorder to hear Wallace expound on some aspect of his life which might be mind-numbingly boring if described by a less fascinating figure. The effect of Wallace’s dialogue is all the more impactful because we know how the story ends and that this tour is but a distant memory in the mind of present-day Lipsky.

Eisenberg plays the same kind of character he always plays here, stepping back a bit from his nebbishy, awkward archetype to allow Segel to take center stage. The comedian, known best for his portrayal of Marshall on “How I Met Your Mother,” dives deep into the role of Wallace, getting to know him and nailing his mannerisms and affect. Ultimately, it is clearly Eisenberg and Segel on screen, but Segel’s take on Wallace is well worth a watch in this intriguing if not entirely satisfying remembrance of one mysterious magnetic man gone too soon.


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