Based on David Lipsky’s memoir Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, The End of the Tour dramatizes the conversations Lipsky had with David Foster Wallace over the course of five days at the end of the Infinite Jest book tour. Mostly a two-man show, we watch Wallace and Lipsky size each other up in their own ways, bond, and find tension among each other as Lipsky can’t help but try to figure out what makes Wallace tick.
For a film completely about conversations and not plot, The End of the Tour is always compelling. Watching these two men, and actors, sit back and talk is as easy to enjoy as any set piece. Jesse Eisenberg plays Lipsky, Jason Segel plays Wallace, and while the two of them aren’t stretching from the types we have come to know them as actors, they are both excellent across the board. Segel especially shows off some chops we haven’t seen from him, with his silent fascination with pop culture striking me the most while watching the film. Segel is also great at using his size when necessary without ever coming off as a maniac. There are only a couple of moments where this happens, but it works to show the struggle of identity Wallace is going through. Eisenberg seems like his fast talking self here, but there is a charm and aloofness to Lipsky’s more jealous and dickish side that makes the character far more likable than he might be if those elements were played right out in front. Both of the actors are great, bounce off each other wonderfully, and are worth the price of admission alone.
With that said, I feel like the film doesn’t quite stack up to much. Maybe that is the point. Lipsky’s title of his memoir kind of tells the whole story, we aren’t anything special and in the end we are just who we are, but I still felt like we should be feeling a little more something by the end of the film. There is a normalcy to it all, something Wallace might have wanted, but I had a hard time finding the profound in a film full of discussion about that very subject. Like I mentioned above, some of my favorite moments were watching Wallace in awe of a movie or TV show, and director James Ponsoldt’s work shines brightest in these moments as well. The whole film is rather subdued, with little flair, but that’s how this conversation goes and there is little Ponsoldt could do to elevate it beyond what it is. That would feel ingenuine.
I guess I am in a weird spot with The End of the Tour. I enjoyed the film. I really enjoyed the performances. And I found myself being greatly intrigued by Wallace and Lipsky’s conversations on a number of occasions in the film. So what don’t I feel like a bigger fan of the film than I do? Wallace is an interesting character study, but I feel like the film might get a little too hung up on Lipsky. This makes sense because the film is his POV and he is the only one of these two we could talk to, but there might be a little too much mystery to Wallace for a film that feels like it is projecting that its character might have found some clarity on him. Still, if you are intrigued to see The End of the Tour, I would easily recommend you go out and see it.