Movie Reviews

“The End of the Tour”


Genre: Drama

Directed By: James Ponsoldt

Starring: Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack, Mickey Summer, Mamie Gummer, Ron Livingston

Written By: Donald Margulies


Official Synopsis: THE END OF THE TOUR tells the story of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter (and novelist) David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), which took place right after the 1996 publication of Wallace’s groundbreaking epic novel, Infinite Jest. As the days go on, a tenuous yet intense relationship seems to develop between journalist and subject. 

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Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself was published in 2010, but its content was actually written as part of a Rolling Stone cover piece back in 1996, which didn’t end up going to print. David Lipsky conducted the interview—a five-day conversation with David Foster Wallace coinciding with the last day of his Infinite Jest book tour—and turned the project into its own book after DFW’s suicide in 2008. The rambling, repetitive, intimate conversations in Although Of Course don’t serve much purpose except to diehard fans of DFW. And The End of the Tour doesn’t serve much purpose as a cinematic retelling of these conversations. Instead we get an easy adult drama teaching the glib moralistic lesson of accepting who we are, of not measuring ourselves against others. It’s a strange way to go with a movie about David Foster Wallace, but then again, any movie about DFW would be strange.


Director James Ponsoldt shies away from making a film in the all-out conversational style of the book. One of my favorite films is Louis Malle’s My Dinner with Andre, which is all about two men talking over a fine dinner that doesn’t stand a chance of getting eaten. If conversation is a lost art, My Dinner with Andre helps us find it again. The End of the Tour could’ve joined in the revolution, a modern version of Malle’s brave endeavor. Instead it plays it safe.



There are obligatory wide shots of “picturesque” snowy Midwest expanses (Foster Wallace lived in Bloomington, Illinois, The End of the Tour is filmed all over Michigan and Minnesota), as though it couldn’t be artistic without pretty landscapes. Drama is drummed up, like when DFW confronts Lipsky over the latter possibly hitting on the former’s ex-girlfriend. It’s a cloying scene—DFW being totally uncool, and Lipsky crying about it. Another scene is a misplaced homage to Planes, Trains and Automobiles—an exasperated DFW and Lipsky traversing an airport parking lot. The perfunctory female characters (Mickey Summer as DFW’s ex, Betsy, Anna Chlumsky as Lipsky’s girlfriend, Sarah, and Joan Cusack as a peppy book tour liaison) are icing on the cake in terms of The End of the Tour’s most glaring faults.



Jason Segel deserves kudos for his take on the towering, menacing David Foster Wallace of The End of the Tour. Segel’s days on the short-lived cult hit Freaks & Geeks—Segel played the quietly desperate, loveable lug Nick Andopolis— carries over to his portrayal of DFW. Putting aside the odd scenes where DFW all but bullies Lipsky, Segel very capably embodies DFW’s carefully crafted persona. The End of the Tour should be enough evidence for Segel to ditch the Muppet stuff and cut a few Apatow comedies from his schedule in favor of some more dramatic roles.


Jesse Eisenberg plays David Lipsky, the centerpiece of the narrative in The End of the Tour. We see Lipksy coming to terms with the staggering quality of Infinite Jest, the obvious genius of DFW, and how it seems to dwarf his own work. Speaking as a writer who isn’t necessarily leaking genius, I can sympathize with Lipsky’s concerns—looking up to the best, wishing to be them, and desperately, resentfully, hoping if we read them—or in Lipsky’s case, befriend them—some of their talent will rub off on us. But Lipsky’s desperation isn’t meaningfully explored. He acts like a little brother, eating only what DFW eats (candy, fast food, and diner dinners), trading in alcohol for diet soda, and succumbs to a taste of the grotesque chewing tobacco DFW famously indulged in. It’s not at all surprising to see Lipsky reverse course—to drink that one defiant beer—when his glowing image of DFW dims after some uncomfortably—and, I guess, unexpectedly—“real” interactions. Near the end of the film, DFW tells Lipsky that he shouldn’t want to be like him, and Lipsky quickly agrees like he couldn’t have said it any better himself. I barfed at the heavy handedness. Eisenberg does a great job—he summons just enough tears to match the moment—but the part isn’t the greatest, and by association neither is the performance.



The End of the Tour maybe wants to dissuade us from the age-old practice of hero worship, but goes too far in the opposite direction, painting DFW as a tortured, damaged soul, which serves a well worn part of his mythos anyhow. It also ends up a little too obsessed with this idea of being a “good guy.” But what does it really mean? Is it a consolation prize to being only mildly successful professionally? Is it better than being DFW, a genius writer who suffered from depression, who constantly tried to define his place in a society that considered him above them? It’s a loaded phrase repeated again and again, but not once is it confronted. It is simply accepted as some kind of expert advice, the answer to all of life’s disappointments, both professional and personal—just be a “good guy” and be happy. But if “good guys” are apparently not David Foster Wallace types, then calling The End of the Tour a “good movie” is my polite way of writing it off.

Rating: R

Runtime: 105 minutes

Release Date: July 31, 2015 (USA)


It’s a good choice for those looking for adult drama with literary figures outside of the Marvel universe.


  • I rate The End of the Tour - 5/10
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