Segal & Esienberg in The End of the Tour

The End of the Tour movie review

In a nutshell: The most compelling aspect of The End of the Tour is the conversational bluff poker game in which the two lead characters engage, mutually aware of their divergent agendas.

The End of the Tour features: Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel, Anna Chlumsky, Mickey Sumner, Mamie Gummer, Joan Cusack
Director: James Ponsoldt
Writer: Donald Margulies, based on David Lipsky’s memoir Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself

Review: (rolanstein)
Blown away by David Foster Wallace’s just-published novel Infinite Jest in 1996, Rolling Stone journo David Lipsky arranged to interview the author in his home territory of Illinois. It turned into an epic assignment over 5 days, during which the pair spent all day every day in each other’s company. Located partly in Wallace’s modest home, partly on the road to and from the final date of a book promo tour in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, where the guys meet up with an ex of Wallace’s (Mickey Sumner) and her girlfriend (Anna Chlumsky), The End of the Tour comprises mostly re-enacted conversations between the two writers (the Rolling Stone article never made it to print, but Lipsky’s interview notes and recordings were the basis of his memoir, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, which he was inspired to write following Wallace’s suicide in 2008).

Two writerly types on a 5 day gabfest doesn’t sound like much of a basis for a movie, but Jason Segal (especially) and Jesse Eisenberg put in convincing performances as Wallace and Lipsky respectively, and the result is absorbing. There’s an interesting dynamic between them, with Lipsky slightly in awe of his subject, and the guarded and socially awkward Wallace doing his best to show up as a regular guy – which of course he isn’t.

Indeed, neither are completely open or easy in their interactions with the other. Their exchanges verge on buddy-talk but are always off-set by a mutual awareness of their divergent agendas. Lipsky’s job is to find out as much as he can about Wallace, who is well-aware of this. A naturally private person with some no-go areas (his rumoured heroin and alcohol addiction and a past suicide bid are the elephants in the room), he is never able to completely let his guard down, while Lipsky is ever alert to the opportunity of getting under it. Their situation is further complicated by the sense that they do like and relate to each other, and in different circumstances might become close friends.

Their conversations take on the vibe of an elaborate game of bluff poker, and only occasionally get unreservedly real when breaking out into open hostility and resentment. Wallace throws a jealous tantrum, for example, when he observes Lipsky flirting with his ex-girlfriend. These rare emotion-driven moments yield the clearest clues into what lies behind his cautiously constructed and tightly defended façade.

While the dramatic highlight of the film is the subtle conversational ducking, weaving and feinting of the two leads, the wide-ranging content and mode of their discussions are thought-provoking and interesting. The topics they cover include dogs (Wallace has two he adores), TV, movies (they’re both fans of Die Hard), confectionery, sex and pop stars (Wallace is crazy about Alanis Morissette – go figure). And of course, writing, but these guys seem determined to avoid giving off any vibe of literariness or pretentiousness, and couch their conversations in a sort of contemporary everyman lingo.

If you’re after an action flick this obviously ain’t it, but if the setup appeals to you it won’t disappoint. And although it’s certainly not a prerequisite, if you know Wallace’s work you’ll probably get more out of the movie than someone like me, who doesn’t.

Movie website:

2015-16 Lotterywest Perth Film Festival season dates:
Somerville: 15-21 Feb, 8pm
Joondalup Pines: 23-28 Feb, 8pm

For other Boomtown Rap movie reviews, see Movie Review Archives

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