The End of the Tour

August 23, 2015 at 6:22 pm | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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When David Foster Wallace committed suicide in 2008, I knew very little about him other than that he had written a 1,000 page novel that was supposedly a work of art. A dense and difficult work of art. I never quite got around to reading it but this film feels almost like the next best thing. In 1996, a relatively new Rolling Stone journalist named David Lipsky hoped to establish himself at the magazine by interviewing the author whose novel, “The Infinite Jest,” had just skyrocketed him to literary stardom. Lipsky flew to Wallace’s Minnesota home and spent five days tape-recording their conversations. He wrote the piece and now, all these years later, it has been turned into this movie; the story of two men, essentially alone, opening up to each other. More precisely, it is the story of Wallace’s attempt at authenticity and connection and Lipsky’s attempt to remain guarded and how both those desires share a remarkable amount of overlap. Born in ’62, Wallace stood on the edge, peering into Generation X and his writing spoke most directly to the males of that generation. He spoke to what it meant to be the TV generation (maybe the first generation raised with such easy access to instant gratification) and of the existential dangers of always seeking pleasure. His core message spoke to the fundamental emotional emptiness of prosperity in a way that resonated with many who felt as lost as he did. Lipsky related deeply to this message but, like so many others, he saw Wallace as the guru with answers rather than as a fellow lost traveler. This clouded his judgement in the early days of the interview, seeing only who he needed Wallace to be. It’s an interesting device that allows the audience to explore both men on multiple levels and through multiple lenses. Lipsky’s portrayal is standard Jesse Eisenberg; he’s the anxious and insecure intellectual. Fortunately, that is exactly what is called for here. Jason Segel is more of a revelation. His Wallace is earnest but fearful, desperate to be open but suspicious. These are two man it’s almost impossible not to like and that makes their journey together deeply watchable and affecting. They are orbited by a random collection of mostly invisible women, including Anna Chlumsky, Mamie Gummer and Joan Cusak. But no one else really matters. This is the story of two men trying to find themselves and briefly occupying the road along that journey. Sadly, Wallace never got where he was going. I honestly hope Lipsky did.

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