Sunday, November 1, 2015

The End of the Tour (2015)

Director: James Ponsoldt
Writers:  Donald Margulies, David Lipsky
Cast:       Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg

The story of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace, which took place right after the 1996 publication of Wallace's groundbreaking epic novel, 'Infinite Jest'.

I really had no idea about what the film was exactly going to be and things like Rolling Stone and Tour from the title led me to believe that it was something about the band which goes by the same name (Not really a fan of theirs except for 'Sympathy for the Devil'). When I started watching it, I slowly recalled hearing the name David Foster Wallace related to something the director Paul Thomas Anderson had said in an interview. It turns out that was from the WTF podcast that he did with Marc Maron and Wallace had taught Paul Thomas Anderson English briefly when he was in Boston. 

I don't know how the film would be for those who are familiar with DFW's books but what I took out from the film was mostly the dynamics between an interviewer and his subject when there is an element of fanboyishness. It is common to have such a dynamic in many of these interviews and that can come in the way of being objective about things. While the Lipsky character is pressured by his editor to get something juicy for the article, he himself is trying to rein in on his fanboyishness and jealousy. As for the interview subject, David Foster Wallace, he is conflicted and guarded about how much honest he wants to be for the interview. He is someone who has always struggled with depression and was on a suicide watch when he was 28. He is 34 now and the interviewer is 30. The film doesn't really try to completely explain the personality of its subject but rather give an honest account of their conversations and we are free to glean whatever from it. I saw it more as a journalistic film rather than a dissection of DFW. It turns out that the interview was not actually published until after his suicide death in 2008.

It is a great watch overall and a unique film. It is really a cerebral kind of film and the 90s is recreated with great authenticity. The winter Illinois setting reminded me of 'Fargo', which I should be rewatching. Performances are really good and Jason Segel conveyed the awkwardness very well. I think I should try to read 'Infinite Jest' at some point in near future.

Rating: 4/5

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