Segel Gives Oscar Worthy Performance In “The End Of The Tour”

By Scott Kurland
Film: The End Of The Tour
Starring: Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Mamie Gummer, Anna Chlumsky, Mickey Sumner, and Joan Cusack.
Rated R
Director: James Pondsoldt

In the fall of 2008, the literary world lost one of its greatest writers; David Foster Wallace. If you are unfamiliar with Wallace’s works he wrote the 1,079 page opus “Infinite Jest”. A novel so grand that many readers failed to complete reading the novel due to how lengthy and detailed it is, yours truly falls into that category of failed readers. Wallace sadly died due to suicide in 2008.This week’s film “The End Of The Tour” doesn’t document his death, but it honors his life. Let’s find out if it is any good shall we?

“The End Of The Tour” stars Jesse Eisenberg as David Lipsky, a writer for “Rolling Stone” magazine. The year is 1996, and Lipsky is tired of doing fluff pieces on boy bands and rising female popstars. Having just released his first novel “The Art Fair”, Lipsky wants to prove not only that he is a good writer, but also a great journalist. Fate shines on Lipsky when he stumbles across the novel “Infinite Jest” written by David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel). Lipsky convinces Rolling Stone to allow him to travel with Wallace on the final week of his tour  and learn who this tortured genius really is. What Lipsky gets is a week of conversation about life, philosophy, fast food, and a glimpse into Wallace’s greatest addiction...pop culture television.

Right out of the gate Jason Segel crushes the role of David Foster Wallace, I mean this is one of the best performance of 2015. Segel may come across as Jason Segel in this film, but I assure you he’s not. Segel is very reserved and sensitive as the introverted Wallace. In the beginning we think Wallace is a former alcoholic and drug addict, but we learn he isn’t, he’s a writer struggling with his own fame. Also Wallace has a very intense addiction to television and film, which is something I think we can all relate to. However, Segel shows that Wallace sees this as a gateway to laziness and sloth-like behavior. I’m calling it right now, Jason Segel will be one of the five actors nominated for an Oscar this year. Segel shows strength and wisdom, as well as showcasing fear and obscurity in this character. Considering that Wallace was a private man and not much was known about him, Segel makes him come to life.

Jesse Eisenberg has not one movie out, but two and this is the first of two I’m reviewing. This is also the better film of the two, and that should be stated right off the bat. Eisenberg will probably be nominated for his role as Lipsky, and I hope he is. Segel works so well off Eisenberg, and the conversations would not be as convincing without Eisenberg bouncing ideas off of Segel. Eisenberg is one of those actors who really knows how to stand his ground in a scene, and he has to do that several times. Eisenberg makes Lipsky not only idealize Wallace, but Eisenberg also shows the jealousy Lipsky had for Wallace. At times Eisenberg has to be unlikable, but he finds a way to make us like him again. Just when you think you shouldn’t like Eisenberg’s Lipsky, Eisenberg wins you over. 

“The End Of The Tour” is like nothing I’ve seen before, not only is it a period piece; it’s also a dialog based conversation film. Think “My Dinner With Andre” or Linklater’s “Before Sunrise Trilogy”. Then add in details like the rise of Alanis Moriessette’s popularity and the John Woo film “Broken Arrow”. Once you have those components  spread in Kevin Smith style pop culture references and a love of junk food, that is just scratching the surface of “The End Of The Tour”.  “The End Of The Tour” was written by Donald Margulies and directed by the always brilliant James Ponsoldt. Pondsoldt is three for three with his films. He directed the wonderful alcohol based dramas “Smashed” and “The Spectacular Now”, and he really knows how to capture addiction on screen when it is motivated by dialog. Although it is not drugs or alcohol, Pondsoldt shows Wallace’s depression and escapism as an addiction. Pondsolt has yet to make a bad film, and he knows how important pacing and structure is in his film’s execution.

“The End Of The Tour” is one of the best films of 2015, it doesn’t have many characters, and most of the supporting roles are overlooked by the performances of Eisenberg and Segel. But I must say this is a wonderful and evocative film, not only is it based on real life, but there are details that make this film even better. One scene in particular involves David Lipsky and David Foster Wallace taking two girls to the Mall of America to see John Woo’s “Broken Arrow”. At first I thought this was added to make the film feel like 1996, but I learned that this actually happened, and that detail made me love “The End Of The Tour” even more. “The End Of The Tour” is heartbreaking and real, but it is one of the most entertaining biopics I’ve seen in years. This is a smaller film, and you’ll have to search for it, but do yourself a favor and see Jason Segel’s amazing turn in “The End Of The Tour”.

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