Netflix & Chill #67: The End of The Tour

Watched On: Netflix
Released: 2015
Starring: Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Ron Livingston, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Curask, Mickey Sumner, Mamie Gummer, Becky Ann Baker
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Pick: Mine

I don't know how to feel about this movie. I've never read anything written by David Foster Wallace. I've never even so much as touched a copy of Infinite Jest. Would I read Infinite Jest? Maybe- I don't know. I'm still sort of in recovery from Gravity's Rainbow and Infinite Jest is even longer than that was. It's... I don't know how to feel about this movie. The story of the last five days of David Foster Wallace's book tour, Jason Segel is excellent as David Foster Wallace- it's a nice departure from him and it's almost transformative in the way that Nicole Kidman's fake nose was in The Hours. He inhabits the role- but not in a Daniel Day Lewis kind of way-- his performance is more subtle and nuanced. He feels like he's trying to capture the essence of the man but doesn't want to go overboard and risk parody or overacting hamminess. It's restrained and subtle and because of that, I think he actually captures the essence of Wallace and becomes him in a way that Daniel Day Lewis would probably recognize and approve of.

Jesse Eisenberg stars as David Lipsky, the Rolling Stone reporter who goes along to cover the last five days of his book tour.

And that's the movie. It's essentially My Dinner With Andre- just two dudes talking- but in the context of a book tour. As a whole it presents something of a challenge to talk about. I can't judge someone's writing when I've never read the book. I can't rail on about how I can't stand the cloud of pretentious snobbery that hang over books that the great and the good and the gatekeepers of the literary world deem to be 'worthy' because if I did that, well, that would be kind of pretentious and snobby of me, wouldn't it?

So yeah, I don't know how to feel about this movie. I do love the fact that it's a serious exploration of male relationships and male friendships and over the course of the movie, Lipsky and Wallace do become friends. Wallace sort of holds him at arms length throughout and seems indifferent to being interviewed. He does invite Lipsky to stay in his guest bedroom which stacked high with books. Points of tension emerge when Lipsky pushes Wallace to talk about his institutionalization and a suicide watch, but they push through them and keep talking. Lipsky accompanies him to his last stop of the tour in Minneapolis-- and tension emerges again when Wallace sees Lipsky flirting with one of his friends, Betsy. When they return back to Wallace's house, tension spikes again with Lipsky asks him about rumors of past heroin abuse. He denies it and accuses Lipsky of looking for a stereotypical angle to write his profile on.

They wrap up and eventually spend one last morning together not as journalist and subject, but as friends. Lipsky finds the nerve to give Wallace a copy of his own novel and they agree to stay in touch and the movie ends with Lipsky on his own book tour promoting his memoir Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, which was based on their 1996 encounter.

Overall: I still don't know how to feel about this movie. I do like that it portrays a male friendship and two dudes just hanging out and figuring out how to get to know each other- I think that's almost refreshing to see because it feels pretty rare in Hollywood. The cinematography works as well: the book tour takes place over the winter and they capture the sort of washed out monochromatic feel of the Midwestern winter perfectly. Eisenberg and Segel have great chemistry that makes the heart of this movie beat- in fact it makes the whole thing work.

But all that being said... it's just... man, I don't know. I feel like I might appreciate this more had I read any of Wallace's work to find out what kind of a writer he was and if he's as brilliant as people say. I know what people say, but people say a lot of things and there's an air of this movie being something people need to watch in order to have the right conversations as cocktail parties. That might be my imagination. It might even be unfair. But as much vulnerability and humanity both Eisenberg and Segel show in their performances, there's just something about this movie as a concept that I find...  annoying. So, My Grade: *** out of ****

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