After months of waiting and anticipation, I finally got to see “The End of the Tour,” the film based on David Lipsky’s book, Although of Course You End up Becoming Yourself, a transcription of his five-day interview with David Foster Wallace at the tail-end of his Infinite Jest book tour. During those months of waiting, I read far too many articles about and reviews of the film. Most of these – even the negative reviews – made me all the more excited to see it; although as I entered the theater, I hoped that all this reading and all the hype didn’t build my expectations too high. I didn’t want to end up disappointed and feeling I had wasted that free movie ticket.
I was not disappointed. On my way out of the theater, I texted my wife, “Such a great film. Loved it!” So, here I will add my thoughts to the myriad others who have already seen and written about the film.
When I first met him, my master’s thesis advisor shared with me a quote from Jean-Luc Godard that stuck with me through the process of writing my thesis and beyond. The quote goes something like this: “When you turn on the camera, the lie begins. But leave it on long enough and the truth comes out.” There could not be a truer statement about “The End of the Tour.”
The film is all about artifice and facade. You have Jason Segal taking on the persona of the literary giant, David Foster Wallace (and giving a damn good performance), who is very aware of the fact that Lipsky’s tape recorder is always running. He watches his words and guards his image, wanting to come across as an “everyday guy.” All the while, he knows that the commercial success has made him anything but an “everyday guy” anymore. Dave (Wallace) is very careful to never let Dave (Lipsky) see too much of his real self.
Then there is Dave Lipsky, played by Jesse Eisenberg, an up-and-comer hoping that this interview with Big Shot David Wallace will rocket his own career into orbit. Part fanboy, part interviewer, Lipsky tries to hide his jealousy of Wallace’s success. He’s the rookie in the big leagues who’s trying to play it cool, even though Dave W (and we) can see right through it.
And yet, the camera is left on just long enough for us to see through the facade and artifice to find something real and true. My favorite quote of Dave (Wallace)’s – and the foundation of my philosophy of literature – is “fiction is about what it means to be a fucking human being.” There are those moments in this film that allow us to see glimpses of the human condition. In all its frailty and self-consciousness and insecurity, we see these two young men for who and what they really are.
These are my favorite moments of the film. The scene when Dave is talking about his crush on Alanis Morissette. The scene when Dave goes back for more food at the convenience store when Dave Lipsky says his expense account will cover their junk food indulgences. And probably my favorite scene when the two Daves are eating McDonald’s burgers in Dave’s living room and Jeeves and Drone (Wallace’s two dogs) are begging for food. Dave tells Jeeves over and over to sit, but the dog just ignores him. There is something so simple, yet so real about that scene. Just two guys shooting the breeze over lousy burgers while trying the fend off a couple of hungry Labradors.
And then the last scene. The one of Dave dancing at the Baptist Church social. Yes, I read the article about how Dave didn’t actually like to dance and how “church” was his code word for his recovery group. But I loved that scene.
See, I wrote my thesis on “Singin’ in the Rain” and Plato’s Cave (not your normal bedfellows, I know). The gist of the paper is that the “Singin’ in the Rain,” like Plato’s Cave, is all about illusion and reality. When the viewer first meets Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Kathy Seldon (Debbie Reynolds), both characters lie about who they are. Don tells the glamorous story on his rise to fame while on the red carpet of his latest premiere; all the while, the viewer sees the truth of his less-than-dignified career. Kathy tells Don about her success on the dramatic stage, but we soon see that she is really just a nightclub showgirl. It is only when the two dance together on the empty soundstage that they are honest with each other.
My point is that dance is one of the few truly honest expressions. You can’t lie while you’re dancing. Which is why I loved the last scene. We finally see the real Dave. Now I know that this probably didn’t really happen, but hear me out. In “The End of the Tour,” we see Dave Wallace’s ongoing struggle with simply being himself. He is on guard every time the tape recorder is on, and when it’s off, he is too overly analytical to know who his true self even is at times. He just wants to be a regular guy, even if that goal is unattainable. But in that final moment, we see regular Dave, dancing and free.
Click here to watch the trailer.