“The End of the Tour”

                This is an indie film all the way, a little bit of slice-of-life that is very instrospective, sometimes insightful, unusually small in scope, ,and based on an actual event, if you can call a journalist interviewing a writer an actual event.

                Jesse Eisenberg plays David Lipsky, a reporter for “Rolling Stone” who in 1996 has just been assigned to interview David Foster Wallace, a young writer who has shot to fame with his award-winning novel, “Infinite Jest.”

                Lipsky is invited to visit Wallace at his home, which is in a remote upper Midwest town in the middle of winter.  Lipsky finds big, enthusiastic, dogs, and a bachelor pad largely unkempt, and devoid of any trappings of success.  Wallace seems more like an out-of-work machinist at the auto plant.  He always dresses very casually, he chews tobacco, his hair is long and stringy, and though he is a big man, his hulking presence seems informal and understated.

                The two men hit it off well enough that Wallace just invites Lipsky to stay at his place for the several days he is in town, which of course invites all kinds of informal conversation, even though Lipsky turns on the tape recorder, most of the time.  Wallace is unafraid to talk about his loneliness, though he’s a little more reluctant to speak of his former depression that landed him in an institution.  And he gets really touchy when asked about rumors of a heroin addiction.

                Wallace is, in fact, an addictive personality, so much so that he denies himself a television in his house, because he knows he’ll just sit there and watch it all the time.  Lipsky is himself a writer, having published a novel that didn’t receive nearly the acclaim that Wallace’s did, and that provides some tension in this relationship, as well, as Lipsky is by turns envious, jealous, admiring, and hero-worshipping.  But they’re both very smart, and they even have a conversation about what that’s like, to feel like you’re smarter than most people, and being aware of putting on certain personas at certain times in order to not intimidate the people around you, or invoke their disdain, and then when do those acquired personas become actually a part of who you are?

                Not much really happens here.  Wallace is invited to an interview and book signing, which Lipsky attends; provoking another conversation about public personas and personal integrity.  There are only a couple of other characters who intersect this dialogue, a publicist and a former girlfriend.  When Lipsky approaches the former girlfriend about interviewing her, as well, Wallace makes it clear that’s unacceptable, just like he did when Lipsky asked his permission to interview his parents.  It appears Mr. Wallace wants the article to be about what he says about himself, not what others around him say about him, because, in fact, Lipsky is basing the entire article on his own perceptions of Wallace, the heralded reclusive writer.

                Yes, it’s a bit melancholy, at times startlingly revealing, and at other times surprisingly ordinary.  Eisenberg is not quite the wide-eyed innocent, but he can still convey an intense personal interest.  Segal is a presence despite the lack of histrionics, or even significant secondary performances around him.  It’s low-key, but still engaging, in its quiet, introspective sort of way.

 

Questions For Discussion:

1)                  The two share a guilty pleasure in early 90's Alanis Morissette songs.  What's your musical guilty pleasure?

2)                  Whose autograph do you have, and whose would you like to have?

3)                  When have you had a conversation that you wished would never end?  When have you had one that you thought would never end?  What's the critical distinction?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Supply Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Kaufman, Texas