Oddly-conceived, minor, but wholly likable dramatization of David Lipsky's memoir Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, written about the five days in 1996 that Lipsky, a writer for Rolling Stone, spent interviewing David Foster Wallace, who was winding down a publicity tour for his landmark novel Infinite Jest.
Your interest in seeing The End of the Tour will be directly proportionate to your interest in Wallace and his work. You don't need to be intimately acquainted with Infinite Jest – I made it through about 150 of its 1,000+ pages before amicably parting ways with it – to follow the film, but seeing as how this story is about a little-known '90s writer's brief encounter with a somewhat better-known '90s writer, it has niche appeal, to say the least.
The End of the Tour is basically a hangout movie: Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg, purposefully enervating as the gibbering interviewer/fan, tape recorder ever thrust forward) and Wallace (Jason Segel, giving a note-perfect impersonation of the laid-back writer) sit around and talk, smoke, eat, drive around, and go to Minneapolis for a couple of press events. Much of the dialogue appears to be a verbatim transcript of the men's conversations, and the film is at its best when Segel simply recites Wallace's loose, funny, honest insights into fame and pop culture. (Seriously, the actor could take this to the stage and do a one-man show. I'd see it.) Which, fortunately, takes up most of the run time.
There are themes here about writer envy (Lipsky's embarrassment over his own tiny autobiographical novel, published at the same time as the mammoth Infinite Jest, is touching) and the love-hate relationship between celebrities and their profilers, but The End of the Tour is ultimately only about Lipsky's – and the well-read world's – ongoing efforts to figure out the sort of person who could produce a tremendous achievement like Infinite Jest, then kill himself 12 years later. But in the end, it seems that Wallace really was nothing more than what, in the film, he purports himself to be: an unassuming if brilliant TV junkie who's fighting a losing battle with depression.
I liked The End of the Tour, but if you're not a writer, you don't know who David Foster Wallace was or what he looked like or sounded like, and you could never be bothered to pick up Infinite Jest, then this film is not a must-see. But if you're curious, take a chance. Segel is charming, and you might wind up liking, and missing, this Wallace guy.