Saturday, August 22, 2015

The End of the Tour

The End of the Tour (dir. James Ponsoldt, 2015) is a likable and unlikable film. I found less bromance than I had anticipated (and dreaded), several moments of high seriousness and emotional darkness, and (via Joan Cusack) some sweetly comic relief. The relationship between interviewer David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and interviewee David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), which develops over five days of talk and travel, is never without its duplicities. Does Wallace offer Lipsky a “guest-roomish” spare bedroom out of sheer hospitality, or is the interviewee trying to disarm his interviewer early on? Lipsky’s snooping around in medicine cabinets and empty rooms is less ambiguous.

Jason Segel has an uncanny grasp of Wallace’s speaking voice — or of one Wallace voice, the plain-ordinary-guy voice. (Here is a different Wallace voice.) But in appearance, Segel’s Wallace is grotesque: slovenly, hulking, and slightly crazed-looking. My offhand nominee for a more convincing Wallace: Edward Burns.

The edited transcript of Lipsky and Wallace’s conversations appeared in book form as Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself (2010). This film might better have been titled Although of Course You End Up Becoming a Caricature of Yourself.

But worth seeing, even if only to satisfy a reader’s curiosity.

Related reading
All OCA David Foster Wallace posts (Pinboard)

comments: 11

Frex said...

So, would you recommend it?
I can't decide if I should go or not. (In its favor: my city is in it!)
Frex is Fresca (as you know)

Michael Leddy said...

I think it’s worth seeing. The Minnesota element will be a bonus. But I think that the more you know about DFW, the more ambivalent you’ll be.

Michael Leddy said...

I added a sentence to the post to say that, yes, it’s worth seeing.

Zhoen said...

There is also a (probably unrelated) song. By They Might Be Giants, natch.

Michael Leddy said...

There’s a fair amount of music in the film, all unfamiliar to me, so you got me to wondering. But no, this song isn’t there. Maybe just coincidence? Or maybe an apt title borrowed?

I know of one song inspired by Wallace’s writing, The Decemberists’ “Calamity Song.”

brownstudy said...

Bret Easton Ellis wrote an article on the web recently about this movie, DFW, and how he did not recognize the version of Wallace that has become ... "canonized," I think his word is. I think he preferred Wallace's literary criticism over his fiction and occasional journalism.

I've not read any Wallace so I have no opinion. I am interested in the movie, but I've heard enough to go in skeptical about its portrait.

Michael Leddy said...

His contempt for Wallace suggests to me a strong streak of jealousy and resentment, but his take on the movie seems to me on the mark. Here’s a link.

I think of what Auden wrote in his poem for Yeats: “he became his admirers.” I think that’s what’s happened with this film.

Fresca said...

If nothing else, I'm glad I went (on your rec) for her.

I did like the movie---I'm always game to eavesdrop on conversations! between writers! who think about stuff! (my favorite thing)--but I thought it was a bit overly reverential. (A bit?)

I know he's tragically dead and everything (and I cried, and felt the loss),
but I wanted to say to the filmmakers, "Lighten up a bit! He's dancing like Starsky!" (Of Starsky & Hutch--famously silly 70s dancing).

Michael Leddy said...

The ending is pretty awful to watch. And there’s some reason to wonder if Wallace really did go dancing.

Fresca said...

I was confused by the dance at the end--nothing to do with DFW, about whom I know little--but because growing up in the Midwest, it seemed incredibly unlike any Midwestern culture I've ever encountered.

I think the filmmaker didn't really know how to handle the material.
Still, it is worth watching, and I'm glad you recommended it.

Michael Leddy said...

Yes. “I’m going to a dance at a Baptist church” sounds to me like “I dare you to fact-check this.”