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  End of the Tour, The Writer's Block
Year: 2015
Director: James Ponsoldt
Stars: Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack, Mamie Gummer, Mickey Sumner, Ron Livingston, Becky Ann Baker, Stephanie Cotton, Dan John Miller, Chelsea Anne Lawrence, Carrie Bradstreet
Genre: BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) was a magazine journalist and author who in 2008 heard some news that shocked the literary community and fans of author David Foster Wallace worldwide: he had committed suicide at the age of 46, leaving his family bereft and a book unfinished. Wallace had become renowned as the writer of the huge, intricate novel Infinite Jest, which had apparently become both a blessing and curse to him, for it had brought him success and recognition of his talents, but he had found it difficult to live up to, no matter that his followers continued to enjoy his other work. Lipsky was immediately taken back to the five days he had spent with the man, recording an interview...

There really was a five-day interview with Wallace conducted by Lipsky, it was supposed to have been published in Rolling Stone magazine until other events overtook it and the piece was shelved. However, when the journalist heard of Wallace's untimely demise he dug out the tapes and compiled a book of his own about his time with him; was this a cash-in on a celebrity death or an attempt to keep him alive in some, small way? The film made of that interview didn't quite seem clear itself, as certainly it depicted Lipsky as in awe of Wallace's abilities, but also harbouring a grudge that his equally sincere but less popular work was not turning out as well as what could have been a literary rival.

Here we are in no doubt that the two writers were not in the same league, and as the days unfold in flashback the umbrage that not only Lipsky took with Wallace, but vice versa too became more apparent, to the extent that you wondered how much good came from the meeting. Well, there was this movie, which under the direction of indie expert James Ponsoldt managed to work up an intriguingly complex relationship reminiscent of a low budget echo of Ron Howard's Frost/Nixon in the manner in which it examined the relationship between interviewer and subject and precisely how healthy for either party being under the microscope or wielding it could prove to be; what were they trying to get out of it?

Was Lipsky seeking reflected glory or was Wallace aiming for narcissism in allowing his innermost thoughts a voice in print? The script by Donald Margulies settled for something more complex, less superficial, as the Wallace obsession with loneliness was brought to the fore, with him explicitly stating that he feared for the future when technology provided people with their every gratification that before had been provided by actual interaction with their fellow human beings. Sure, we would still be in contact, but it would be more over the internet than face to face, and this state of affairs would increase the isolation citizens experienced when their most meaningful relationships were with those they had not only never met, but actually wanted financial compensation for the interaction.

This observation occurred fairly early in the film as Lipsky and Wallace are getting to know one another and the journo believes he can get along pretty well with this man who is being hailed as a genius, but that lauding of Wallace may be one of the worst things to happen to him when it merely serves to fill his head with doubts. If you had heard of him outwith this production you would be well aware that he suffered serious mental health problems that would periodically put paid to him living a normal life, though he was better functioning than some in his position hence the writing that was published to an eager audience. Yet knowing from the start that this was a man on a course of self-destruction meant you were spending the film looking out for the signs of his depression, and it was only too happy to indicate where it was going wrong for him in his troubled mind. This came from a place of concern and respect, but there was a slightly gossipy, exploitative quality about it that offered a way in to the writer's work and was undoubtedly sincere (Segel and Eisenberg were adept at the verbal sparring making up the greater part of the drama), yet had you wishing for a little more privacy for Wallace and his troubles. Music by Danny Elfman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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