The End of the Tour

  • Graphic by Sam Jones

In 2008, David Foster Wallace, author of Infinite Jest and hailed as one of the most creative voices in American fiction, committed suicide in his southern California home. He was 46 and his death came as quite a blow to the literary world. Numerous vigils were held, a trust was established in his honor and a myriad of shocked, heartbroken writing emerged from his colleagues and friends.

Now, seven years later, director James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) has adapted a series of never-published interviews Wallace gave to Rolling Stone interviewer David Lipsky into the upcoming film The End of the Tour, starring Jason Segal as Wallace, and Jesse Eisenberg as Lipsky. The film premiered at Sundance this Friday to much anticipation.

However, in early 2014 Wallace’s estate made it clear that the film did not have their blessing. A statement from the David Foster Wallace Literary Trust expressed a “wish to make it clear they have no connection with, and neither endorse nor support The End of the Tour.”

“This motion picture is loosely based on transcripts from an interview David consented to 18 years ago for a magazine article about the publication of his novel, Infinite Jest,” the statement continues. “That article was never published and David would never have agreed that those saved transcripts could later be repurposed as the basis of a movie. The trust was given no advance notice that this production was underway and, in fact, first heard of it when it was publicly announced. For the avoidance of doubt, there is no circumstance under which the David Foster Wallace Literary Trust would have consented to the adaptation of this interview into a motion picture, and we do not consider it an homage.”

The film has been received with mixed reviews. David Rooney’s review in the Hollywood Reporter described the film as, “no conventional biodrama…but very much the film that lovers of Wallace’s dazzlingly perspicacious fiction and essays would want.” Rooney goes on to praise the film’s daring choice to not shy away from the more intangible aspects of Wallace’s work, it’s ability to deal with topics of existential emptiness while remaining, “beautiful and alive, as filled with humor as it is with melancholy.” He also lauds both actors in this essential two-hander, asserting this as Segel’s best work since Freaks and Geeks and “devastating strictly on its own quiet terms.”

At the same time, Variety’s Dennis Harvey was unimpressed. “What we see and hear on screen here isn’t all that great,” he writes. “Not especially revealing, poignant, funny or engaging…After Eisenberg’s more adventuresome performances in “Night Moves” and “The Double” last year, his neurotic tics feel on autopilot here; he doesn’t create a character distinct from their over-familiar rhythms.”

The End of the Tour has just premiered at Sundance, with wide release by A24 set in 2015.

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