Film Reviews

THE END OF THE TOUR

By • Aug 30th, 2015 •

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Torturous. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Salinger and…David Foster Wallace? Come on, you never heard of him or his book. This movie is just an ad for another book, Primary Colors.

A movie about the author of a book that the screenwriter, Donald Marguiles, and the director, James Ponsoldt, loves should entice the audience to run out and buy the book. This is definitely not that movie.

In 2010, David Lipsky wrote a book, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, about his five days interviewing David Foster Wallace in 1996. Wallace had written a 1,079 page book, Infinite Jest, that suddenly became the book du jour that everyone bought and no one read.

Rolling Stone writer Lipsky had begged his editor at the magazine to send him to Illinois during a winter storm to do a profile on Wallace. Lipsky was to accompany Wallace to Minneapolis to do a book reading and signing. Lipsky’s editor made it clear to him that the magazine wanted the dirt on Wallace’s past drug use and mental breakdown.

Perhaps Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner never read Infinite Jest because the story never made it into the magazine. In 2008, when news broke that Wallace had committed suicide, Lipsky unearthed the cassette tapes of his interviews. He got a publisher and a movie deal.

Lipsky, as portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, has all the requisite Eisenbergisms. You know exactly what I am talking about – that annoying, stilted way of speaking. Everything he says has a halting inflection and then a pause. If it is an actor’s device, it works: all of Eisenberg’s dialogue takes twice the time to say and the camera is forced to stay on him. If I was playing opposite him, I would be furious. Then add to this, Eisenberg’s ordinary looks. To keep you from noticing, his face is always moving. It’s a ballet of facial movements.

Here, playing one-on-one with Jason Segel’s gone-to-pot body, stringy hair sticking out from the sides of his ever-present bandanna, wire-rims, unshaven, and a look of sloppy hopelessness, Eisenberg positions himself as the good-looking guy. And the screenplay even has Wallace comment on how good looking he is! This is what happens when your star is set to be the next Lex Luther. He’s the hot guy in your movie!

In every film that Jennifer Aniston or Nicole Kidman have been in, someone says, “You are so beautiful.” Sometimes it is said by several people. This is such an irritant to me that I start counting the number of times it is said. Maybe it is in their contracts.

In keeping with this agenda, Lipsky and Wallace meet up with Wallace’s college girlfriend. Instead of mining that wealth of information about who Wallace really is, instead we focus on Wallace’s sudden jealousy that Lipsky is flirting with his former girlfriend.

They argue like high school girls fighting over the guy in the back of the class who doesn’t even know they are alive. Wallace and Lipsky squabble and their five-day get-away ends badly.

Wallace, who didn’t want to do the extensive interview and reveal his lower-middle class life to Rolling Stone, was never promised the cover but he never got into the magazine. So it was a waste of his time and now ours.

Thank goodness Lipsky kept those tapes. Things worked out fine for him.

This movie is about licorice, junk food, smoking, and Wallace’s fear of being a “sell-out”. He really would like to use his sudden fame to get laid by college girls, but he’s just too shy. He would love to be that person, but how? Lipsky isn’t that guy either.

So THE END OF THE TOUR is about a man who will eventually kill himself. How and why? Well, Lipsky wasn’t around for that so the real importance of this man’s life – the struggle of being Wallace – is never revealed.

Yes, it is admirable that Segel chose this sad, depressed character to leap out of the constraints of his oeuvre. Segel’s TV series has made him a very wealthy man – he could have financed any number of projects starring himself. The only thing that stands out to me is his ability to memorize pages and pages of dialogue. Because it’s a 2-person movie and all they do it talk about their preference for Red Vines or Twizzlers?

How often is the fact that Wallace’s book is over 1,000 pages mentioned? It’s as if you are warned ahead of time that this doorstop will be heavy lifting.
So what was Wallace’s life like – without Lipsky – from 1996 to its end in 2008? That is the story that should have been told.

Member of Boadcast Film Critics Association: www.bfca.org

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society:www.lvfcs.org

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at masauu@aol.com.

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