Movie Review: The End of the Tour

I saw two movies this week: Mr. Holmes, which I didn't review - and which may possibly be the slowest and most boring movie ever - and The End of the Tour, which I feared might also be slow but instead ended up being a gem of a film. I knew nothing about the subject of the movie, writer David Foster Wallace, before seeing it, but now that I have, I will definitely need to read his book (Infinite Jest) on which the film focuses, and the movie also compelled me to read more about his life and legacy.

The movie opens in 2008, and journalist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) has just heard the news that David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) has committed suicide. Lipsky's girlfriend, Sarah (Anna Chlumsky), asks him if it's true - he would know better than anyone, after all - and he does a quick Google search and reveals that yes, the news is unfortunately correct. Lipsky goes to his hall closet and takes out his cassettes of his time spent with Wallace, which brings him back to twelve years earlier: 1996, when Wallace's new book, Infinite Jest, had just been released, and Lipsky was able to tail him at the end of his tour, to Minneapolis, in order to write a Rolling Stones article about him.

Eisenberg and Segel had fantastic chemistry here. I don't think I've ever seen Segel play such a "laid back" person, yet after a while you start to forget it's Segel himself and not the man who he is portraying. Eisenberg plays his typical role here, but with a touch of jealousy and also empathy, and the two of them are great to watch on the screen. Mamie Gummer (Meryl Streep's daughter, whom I just saw in Ricki and the Flash) has a small role as well, as a Wallace "groupie" of sorts who meets up with them in Minneapolis; Joan Cusack and Ron Livingston also have supporting roles, as a Minneapolis escort (tour guide) who brings some laughs and Eisenberg's boss at Rolling Stone, respectively.

Yes, see this movie. I will say that it's a bit slow throughout, but it still kept me captivated during most of its runtime; no small feat considering most of the movie is just Segel and Eisenberg talking to each other. The "tour" part of The End of the Tour actually only lasts for about 1/4 to 1/2 of the movie, and the rest of it contains traveling, bonding, and conversations between the two of them. This film was also very sad, as we started in the "present" (2008) and learned of Wallace's suicide; the movie was very well done in that it stays in the past (1996) for most its runtime, except for the beginning and ending, and I feel that if the film had chosen to veer back and forth between 1996 and 2008, it wouldn't have been as compelling. I'm going to read Infinite Jest too, at some point, although the book is about 1000 pages so it may take me a while to get through it. The End of the Tour will end up surprising audiences during a normally slow movie season (summer), and it's one that should definitely be seen.

The End of the Tour is in theaters today, August 14th, and is rated R with a runtime of 106 minutes. 4.5 stars out of 5.

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