In 1996 Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky set out to do something impossible, or at least something that hadn’t been done in over 10 years, interview a writer for the venerable music magazine. David Foster Wallace was setting the world on fire with his semi-autobiographical thousand page behemoth Infinite Jest at the time and Lipsky was dying to learn what made the man tick, but joining Foster for a five day road trip at the end of his book tour proved even more of an adventure than Wallace’s nihilistic prose could’ve predicted. Lipsky published a book detailing the experience in 2010, after Wallace’s untimely and tragic 2008 suicide, and now that book has been adapted by The Spectacular Now Director James Ponsoldt.
The End of the Tour as a film is just as unexpected of a journey as the source material itself, as Lipsky, portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, begins by pragmatically trying to get to the bottom of the many rumors surrounding the mysterious Wallace (Jason Seagal), spurned by his unconvinced Editor (Ron Livingston) but eventually learns that a man is much more than his “superhero origin story”, especially one as talented and misunderstood as Wallace. Seagal and Eisenberg bring the characters to vivid life, completely selling the initial awkwardness of the pairing that eventually blooms into a deep, however brief, friendship, understanding and camaraderie. Eisenberg is solid as usual but Seagal completely disappears into Wallace, achieving a mastery of his craft usually not seen in his myriad of goofball stoner roles. Hopefully this elevates his career to new dramatic heights, he deserves it.
James Ponsoldt was generous enough with his time to participate in a Q and A via Skype after the feature, touching on the casting process, how the actors access to Lipsky’s original tapes helped them better understand their roles, and what it was like for Eisenberg and Seagal to inhabit these characters, being talented and accomplished writers in their own right. An illuminating conversation that added an extra wrinkle to an already interesting and highly entertaining film.
The End of the Tour opens July 31st.