Sundance 2015: The End of the Tour
Review by Scott Menzel
Jason Segel was born to play David Foster Wallace.
In 2012, I stumbled upon James Ponsoldt‘s Smashed and instantly fell in love with the film. Since then I have been following Ponsoldt’s career and really dug his follow-up film, The Spectacular Now. Needless to say, I was very excited to see The End of The Tour premiere at Sundance, not only because Ponsoldt directed it but because I was extremely curious to see if Jason Segel could pull off a role that required him to transform into someone completely opposite of all the characters he has portrayed to date.
The End of the Tour is based on David Lipsky’s Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself and tells the story of Rolling Stone Magazine reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg), in search of his next big story. In 1996, David Foster Wallace’s (Jason Segel) latest book, Infinite Jest, was released and became big news in the literary world. After reading the book for himself, Lipsky was blown away by the material and begged his boss for an exclusive interview. This film focuses solely on what happened during that final leg of Wallace’s famous book tour.
If you haven’t read a single book that David Foster Wallace has written you really should. I would bet that after seeing this film many will be inspired to pick one up just to learn a little bit more about this fascinating man. If you are someone who enjoys dialogue-based films that rely heavily on the performances and storytelling, then I think you should know The End of the Tour is a right up your alley.
The End of the Tour reminded me of 2008’s Frost/Nixon. Nixon made it fascinating to watch two actors go back and forth with one another for an entire film. Tour is similar in that light as it relies very heavily on the constant back and forth between Eisenberg and Segel. These two actors are incredible together and somehow manage to hold attention for the 105-minute runtime.
Segel absolutely disappears in this role and becomes David Foster Wallace. I know that a lot of people love Segel, but outside 2011’s The Muppets, I never really cared for his work. To me, Segel always came off like he was playing a role that so many actors could easily play. I can safely say that I cannot see anyone other than Segel playing Wallace and I would be shocked if his name isn’t brought up during next year’s Awards Season. Yes, he is that good.
What makes Segel so fascinating to watch on-screen is that he is portraying someone with a lot of layers and a lot of skeletons in his closet. Wallace was a brilliant man who predicted so much about the world we live in today back in 1996. He had a lot to say about how humans treated one another and how technology would ultimately destroy our lives as we will be living in a world where we would rather stare at a screen than interact with those around us. I just found so many of his statements or arguments fascinating.
While I will admit that I did like Eisenberg as David Lipsky, he didn’t get lost in the role like Segel did. This doesn’t mean his performance wasn’t great, but I never felt like I was watching David Lipsky. I overheard someone on the bus today say something very similar because of Eisenberg’s haircut. I can’t believe I am saying this but I kind of agree. I think Eisenberg is an amazing actor but his hair almost instantly reminds you that you are watching Jesse Eisenberg. I know this is a strange statement but it’s very true — at least for me.
Regardless of whether or not Eisenberg’s hair made it hard for me to see him as David Lipsky, the guy can still act his ass off. Eisenberg really does hold his own on-screen and has some great conversations and arguments with Segel. Their two characters are different in a lot of ways but also very similar in ways as well. Their connection and relationship is really something special to watch. It’s hard to really explain it, but I think many will agree when they see the film for themselves.
As for Ponsoldt, I think he did a great job with this film. This is one of those films that a director must feel very passionate about the subject matter to make it into a great film. Within a few minutes in, I could clearly tell Ponsoldt had a very unique connection to the material being presented. His direction is simple yet effective here. I think he will definitely keep getting more and more recognition as a director for many more years to come.
All in All, while I personally loved this film, I can’t see the average moviegoer being able to appreciate this film as much as film lovers will. I think it’s a great film with incredible performances but definitely not something for everyone. If you are a fan of performance-driven dramas, biopics, or simply a fan of David Foster Wallace, I think this is hands down a must-see film. I think it’s definitely worthy of some awards attention and can’t wait to see what Ponsoldt does next. One can only hope that Segel receives enough praise from this role to be inspired to take on more roles like this instead of films like Sex Tape.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for The End of the Tour is a 9 out of 10.
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