The End of the Tour (James Ponsoldt, 2015)

Effortlessly alluring as a humanely authentic adaptation of the David Lipsky novel that inspired it, The End of the Tour shares with us the days-long interview Lipsky conducted with author David Foster Wallace during the titular twilight of his Infinite Jest promotional tour. Through continued conversation and the inevitable clashing of egos, the increasingly candid nature of the experience sheds light on the existential grappling Wallace often struggled to come to terms with throughout his career. Framed by the writer’s suicide in 2008, the film’s sensitive adherence to Wallace’s points of view help paint the portrait of a man that was never comfortable in the spotlight but rightfully famous on account of his singular and widely lauded body of work.

From a purely cinematic viewpoint, I don’t consider The End of the Tour to fit or surpass any standard of excellence. It’s ostensibly a dissection of the two individuals on display that flaunts Wallace’s astute existentialist ruminations as its strongest suit, pulling very few punches along the way. In the vein of his previous work, director Ponsoldt overcomes slightness of narrative with an adherence to authentic humanism and – given the tortured genius of his latest subject – finds added support in complexity of character and the layered incisiveness peppering its exchanges.

While not particularly dense, the conversations between Lipsky and Wallace are lengthy, thoughtful and comparably thought-provoking when they’re not coming to blows over their growing resentment of one another. Frequently touching upon Wallace’s professed loneliness and distaste for the cult of celebrity, The End of the Tour‘s sustained thematic oomph is agreeably engaging throughout his and Lipsky’s many tonally disparate exchanges. Although bittersweet and mostly melancholic given the writer’s suicide as an impetus for Lipsky’s reflection, the film manages to sidestep melodrama via a simply tasteful recreation of the source material.

With a deservedly praiseworthy performance from Segel aiding to excellently convey Wallace’s complex and tortured persona, The End of the Tour is easily one of the better character studies to come around in recent memory. In tastefully examining the author’s palpable vulnerability through a series of intelligent conversations, Ponsoldt’s latest thrives as a truly humanistic portrait of a writer in the throes of longstanding existential turmoil. Through chemistry and deft adherence to subjectivity and scope, The End of the Tour is an entirely affecting chronicle of a fascinating individual and the man who brought the intricacies of his personality to light through a bond formed and shared.


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