It is always respectable when well-known and established actors participate in independent films for the art of it. And that was the perfect way to describe my experience seeing “The End of The Tour.” It was purely artistic.
The plot followed the interviewer David Lipsky’s conversations while shadowing author David Foster Wallace on a book tour. Lipsky was attempting to write an article for Rolling Stone magazine about the author’s private life. The film was based on a book, “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself.”
As with most independent films, the initial focus was on detail. In a commercial, Hollywood film, an unbelievable amount of thought is put into details and background. In one of the first shots of the film, the main character, interviewer David Lipsky, took batteries out of an electric toothbrush to replace the dead ones in his tape recorder. From the beginning of the film, I was immediately drawn to the beauty in these random, everyday lapses from and struggles in ordinary life. The camera shots were brilliant; for example, when a voice-over mentioned New York City, the camera cued in on a crowd of people waiting to get into a club. Unlike most feature films, which would immediately gravitate toward grand shots and bird’s-eye views of the city, the charm and truthfulness of New York came from an eye-level shot. Additionally, many point of view shots were used when the main character, David, was exposed to new situations and places. This immediately established the viewers on David Lipsky’s level. Like Lipsky, we were unsure what to think about David Foster Wallace, his private persona, and his life on which we were intruding.
As the film progressed Lipsky and Foster Wallace continued their conversations about life. I was challenged to understand the plot and some meaning behind all of their conversations. Lipsky kept up his incessant need to tell a story of Foster Wallace as a one-sided character. This mirrors my own struggle to make sense of David Foster Wallace.
Jason Segel (star of “How I Met Your Mother” and “I Love You Man”) broke away from his historical typecast with his portrayal of David Foster Wallace. Far from Segel’s usual quirky, romantic-comedy characters, David Foster Wallace is an honest, nervous guy with a dark history of depression, drinking and mental illness. Jason Segel was unrecognizable, and portrayed David Foster Wallace in a way that was far from a superficial imitation.
They filmed in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which added a noticeable level of truth to the acting. An obviously unplanned gust of wind caused Jesse Eisenberg’s scarf to fly off his neck. It was evident that this and other details, such as a chatter of the teeth in the cold, were unplanned.
It was a wonderful script full of quick quips that echoed life. There were things that I had never known I even thought or agreed with because they were views on life that I never know how to voice, how to put into words. For example, one of the conversations between the author and the interviewer focused on the author’s infamous bandana. When Lipsky brought it up, Foster Wallace responded, “I wish you hadn’t asked.” Now, all the pressure was on the author, anything he decided to do about said bandana would come across as a conscious choice, as if he was presenting himself for his fans rather than just being himself. The movie brought to life the struggle between public and private personas.
Throughout the tour, Lipsky was horribly self-aware of his relationship to Foster Wallace. His personal struggle was how to relate to Foster Wallace: whether to look up to him as an idol, or knock down his self-worth and dismiss him and his talent. Lipsky ultimately learned that neither was necessary.
It was impossible to see the movie just as series of big plot movements. The movie progressed through subtle character developments. But far from being a boring movie about a series of conversations, each moment was laced in a struggle of interests and desperation to understand each other, to connect and have some form of friendship in their lives.