Looking Back at 2010s Films: The End of the Tour (2015)

7 Oct


By Tanner Smith

Continuing my series of Looking Back at 2010s Films………why is “The End of the Tour” not on my top-20-of-the-decade list?

Well, there’s a ridiculous BS reason as to why. Same reason as to why there’s only one MCU movie that’s going to be on my list. The way I made the list was I split the choices into separate categories to make it easier to choose some over others. “The End of the Tour” fit into the Biopic category, and there’s one biopic that I’d feel bad for leaving off the list…this wasn’t it.

But I LOVE this film–believe me, I do! I have a select group of dialogue-heavy films available on streaming services that I just like to listen to on my phone while I’m driving or walking through the mall or the library or whatever. “The End of the Tour,” currently available on Netflix, is one of them.

The dialogue in this film’s screenplay is BRILLIANT. It reminds me a lot of Linklater’s “Before” trilogy, in that it’s mostly centered around two smart people sharing smart ideas and philosophies. And here, we have reporter/novelist David Lipsky and the late enigmatic author David Foster Wallace–two smart guys who bond together by simply discussing their views on life for just a few days.

Played by Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel, I could listen to these two smart guys talk about anything. What does it mean to have something you don’t want? What if you didn’t know you didn’t want it? What if you want it and don’t know how to get it? Who can you truly trust when you have this “celebrity” status? Do you think you’re performing some sort of “social strategy” to alter your persona to less intelligent, average Joes? They even discuss other things like “Die Hard,” Alanis Morrissette, even masturbation.

What makes the conversations especially interesting is that Lipsky convinced his Rolling Stone editor to let him write a piece on Wallace while he’s on the last stages of his book tour promoting his ingenious novel “Infinite Jest.” (At least, I heard “Infinite Jest” was “ingenious.” I never read it…I think I’m scared to.) That’s because he hero-worships Wallace for having the fame that he desires. (As the film opens, Lipsky has just published a novel himself, but chances are it won’t go anywhere.) So, he’s happy to be having these pleasant chats with him, and vice versa (though, Wallace is a bit uncertain as to Lipsky’s “agenda” for the article–he even tells him at one point, “This is nice…this is not real.”). And then, late in the film, Lipsky decides to call Wallace out on what he’s seen so far on the tour, which is that Wallace, who must obviously be “brilliant” to write this long, allegorical novel, is performing some sort of act around him and other people so that they won’t be intimidated. Wallace’s response is amazing. What he’s basically saying is that everybody wants to be perceived in certain ways because we want to please other people. Therefore, we WILL adopt different personas.

I’m guilty of it. And you are, too.

The film was directed by James Ponsoldt, who also directed one of my favorite teen films, “The Spectacular Now.” And it was written by Donald Margulies, the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright famous for “Dinner with Friends.” It was also based on the real Lipsky’s novel “Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself,” which he wrote based on tape recordings he made with the real Wallace–I’d be interested in reading that…I don’t know why I haven’t yet.

I love “The End of the Tour.” I love the dialogue. I love the two lead performances from Segel and Eisenberg. And I love how it makes me feel each time I watch (or listen to) it.

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