THE END OF THE TOUR (James Ponsoldt) *OPENING NIGHT FILM
A gently elegiac biopic/road movie/portrait of the artist, The End of the Tour boasts great performances by its leads and a compelling presentation of material that, at least on paper, would seem to be very talky and quite un-cinematic, indeed theatrical. (In fact, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies penned the screenplay). The film is based on David Lipsky’s memoir Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, written after Wallace’s 2008 suicide. The memoir, and film, follows Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) as he accompanies Wallace (Jason Segel) on the final leg of his 1996 book tour in support of Infinite Jest, the nearly 1100-page doorstop of a novel which is his most famous work. Lipsky was there to interview Wallace for a Rolling Stone profile, which ended up never being published. Lipsky had recently returned to journalism after publishing two well-received but not very popular novels himself.
The End of the Tour vividly details the verbal and psychological pas de deux between the two men, which was by turns intense, distantly friendly, and combative. Lipsky, with his ever present tape recorder, determined to catch unguarded and confessional moments, is clearly envious of his much more successful interview subject. Wallace, on the other hand, is ambivalent and anxious about his fame, feelings exacerbated by his history of depression, and his constant questioning of himself and how this mass media attention will affect his art and how he practices it. Segel delivers the finest performance of his career to date, during which he all but disappears into his role as David Foster Wallace, capturing both the author’s awkward physical demeanor (as a sort of 1990’s-era hippie), and the psychological pain that is never far below the surface, even in his seemingly happier moments. Eisenberg matches him note for note, nicely conveying how Lipsky’s interactions with Wallace both inspire him and force him to recognize some uncomfortable truths about himself. The beautifully rendered wintry Midwestern atmosphere, and an unusually moody, melancholy Danny Elfman score complete this impressive package.
(June 17, 7:30pm)