The End Of The Tour: NZFF Review
Prosaic and elegaic, The End Of The Tour centres on the five day conversation between Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and writer David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) back in 1996.
In light of the publication of Wallace's ground-breaking novel Infinite Jest, Lipsky joined Wallace on the last few days of his book tour and got to know the man.
To say little happens in The End Of The Tour is perhaps an understatement, but this essentially extended conversation weaves in some home truths about life itself and Wallace, as well as opening up the writer to those who may not have known his work.
Eisenberg is solid and irritable as Lipsky, a fellow writer and fan of Wallace who's clearly under his thrall before meeting him but whose interest in his subject is tested and who puts him to the test by the five day trip; there's an occasional hint of tension as Lipsky's Rolling Stone boss hounds him to get to the bottom of some rumours, but other than that, it's about the ebbs and flows of conversation, even if Eisenberg makes you forget he's a journo trying to get a headline.
However, it's a softer Segel who's more impressive as Wallace - capturing not only his physical essence with the bandanna and wire rim glasses, but by giving a sensitively drawn portrait of a man clearly troubled by his life and the realisation of his place in it. Moments when Wallace reveals how he'll feel at the end of the tour are devastating, hinting at his fragility before segueing to shots of him dancing in utter released bliss. There are occasional bouts of insecurity and prickliness from Wallace but Segel makes these moments the emotional bombshells they need to be thanks to a subtle performance that roots itself in the man and his words, rather than the mythos and the perception.
Essentially this road movie boils down to just one thing - it's a portrait of a man and it's excellently portrayed in this two-hander.
Director James Ponsoldt, who did the wonderful The Spectacular Now, gets to the heart of this sensitive esoteric piece and zeroes in on the words of the script, rather than the actions. As a result, more is literally said but even more is hinted at and thanks to Segel's stunning turn, Wallace is brought vividly to life.
The End Of The Tour feels like a quieter piece in the New Zealand International Film Festival, but it's more moving than anything I've seen in recent weeks - the vein of Wallace's inherent sadness is blown open at the end of the film, and you can't help but feel Lipsky's tears as if they were your own as he eulogizes his friend at the end.