Trying to articulate the lives of authors is complicated to say the least. Beneath the quirks and rituals lies a litany of personal problems and troubled histories that influence what they write. Of course, not all authors are strange and damaged people, but the best ones like Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Stephen King, and Chuck Palahniuk certainly are. I never heard of David Foster Wallace until I saw The End of the Tour (TET) trailer and after seeing the movie, it makes sense why people regard him as a genius. Is the portrayal true to the life of a writer or is it a pretentious farce that thinks it knows what it is talking about?
It is difficult to judge the authenticity of a pseudo-biopic about an individual you know nothing about. As I have not read Wallace’s work or done much research, I cannot attest to the accuracy of TET. That being said, Jason Segel’s performance makes me believe otherwise.
After the release of Infinite Jest, David Lipsky, played by Jesse Eisenberg, a Rolling Stone journalist, is sent to interview Wallace at the tail end of his book tour. David learns the intimate details of Wallace’s personality over the course of a five-day interview.
Segel’s performance is what drives TET. Aesthetically, the movie is very ordinary with nothing special going on nor a sense of craft prevalent. It is presented in such a way that makes it actor driven in regards to Segel from the perspective of Eisenberg.
Since the movie is not directly about Wallace, we extrapolate information based on what is learned by the observer Lipsky, our window into the life of the reclusive author. Through the questions and answers, we develop a keen understanding of Wallace’s beliefs and motivations and Segel does an excellent job of making him feel real, the goal of every actor. You understand Wallace’s existential turmoil and depression in not only words, but also body language and tone of voice. It is a dramatic change of pace from his usually comedic roles.
I ought to talk about Eisenberg’s performance, but at the risk of betraying the standards I have set for myself in my critiques, I will leave my personal bias out and say he was serviceable yet unremarkable. He did not play a character nor did I feel he was anyone but himself.
The End of the Tour is an insightful look into the personality of David Foster Wallace and a good representation of what authors are like. If you yourself are a writer, you will certainly appreciate it.