Acclaimed author David Foster Wallace, most well known for his satirical masterpiece “Infinite Jest,” killed himself in 2008. Afterward, fans and reporters struggled to describe Wallace’s life, work and genius.
Author David Lipsky recounted five days he spent interviewing Wallace in 1996. His book, “Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself,” became the basis for The End of the Tour.
To get negatives out of the way, the only real complaint is that this film moves predictably in its beginning moments. The character of Lipsky is set up well enough for later scenes, but the setup seems to belong to a less subtle film. An unenthused boss, a miniscule audience at a book reading, and his early mockery of the hit “Infinite Jest” give us an idea of his situation, if not too simply. The way the film chronicles Lipsky’s learning of Wallace forebodes that it would praise Wallace as a deity who might bless Lipsky with his presence.
Fortunately, the body of the film disperses these doubts, and the rest of the film’s qualities overwhelm its previous flaws. Jesse Eisenberg plays Lipsky as twitchy, nervous and in admiration of Wallace. Jason Segel gives Wallace a seemingly humble demeanor.
Among others, their topics of choice span what it means to be middle class Americans, the reality of success and the effects of entertainment. The movie doesn’t plead you to agree with the characters, but it’s hard to argue that Wallace hasn’t put a good deal of thought into his work and ideas.
Their acquaintanceship grows over five days as they struggle to trust one another. Wallace fears an agenda, Lipsky a facade. The interactions between the two shift from friendship to friction. These shifts are consistent, and no character’s emotional high or low is without its reasons. Subtle movements and twitches display reserved anger.
These aspects of the film are due to the great effort of Segel and Eisenberg. Both are recognizable for the first half hour, but as they demonstrate the range of their characters, they become the interpretations of these two people and grant the audience more immersion.
It’s not two famous actors playing two larger-than-life icons in a throwaway ‘true’ drama. There’s actual thought put in the film to make the characters feel real. The realer the characters, the realer the emotions, and the longer the impression it will leave on the audience.
Which does bring up the question: how real is the movie? Many of the conversations are taken ‘nearly verbatim’ from the tapes, but there’s still an agenda to every film, no matter how small. Wallace worries out loud in the film that Lipsky can spin his story any way he wants, a worry that was certainly felt by his real life counterpart. The real Lipsky had this irony in mind when he wrote his book.
Luckily, the film seems to do a good job of not spinning the story. It does not try to explain Wallace’s suicide or his book. What it does do is give you a glimpse into how his personal life affected his philosophy and how his philosophy affected his personal life.