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News Wall > Celebrity News > Sundance Review: James Ponsoldt’s ‘The End Of The Tour’ Starring Jason Segel & Jesse Eisenberg

 

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Recreating a special moment in time, and the essence of momentous occasion in ones life is a difficult task. Capturing whats supposed to be special, life-changing five-day conversation between two men, artists and writers secondhand (thirdhand, even) is even tougher. s The End Of The Tour a film about a Rolling Stone journalist shadowing author for a profile piece on the renowned writer doesnt seem like much of a movie on paper. In fact, it feels like a play. And at first, the unassuming picture doesnt seem like it has enough compelling reasons to justify its existence. But as it begins to open up, build a head full of steam and really click the way the two protagonists do, The End Of The Tour becomes and incredibly winning and engaging portrait of friendship, lasting connection, mutual understanding and much more.

In what is easily a career best performance, plays the bandana-wearing conflicted genius and portrays David Lipsky, the Rolling Stone writer who pitched and championed a profile on Wallace when Infinite Jest was beginning to reap remarkable levels of literary praise. The movie begins with a prologue: Lipsky learning in 2008 of Wallaces suicide. Shell-shocked, he reaches for the cassette tape interviews from their tte--tte conversations and is transported back to roughly twelve years earlier.

The End Of The Tour has tangible riches: the art of discourse, the combativeness of friendly, not-so-friendly interrogation, and the art of evasion and talk lots and lots of talk. Ponsoldts movie could be except mostly within the confines of a car driving across the wintry American landscape of Illinois, and with more conversational skirmishes. But in what is supposed to be just an interview, with Lipsky trying to get inside Wallaces head and trick him into revealing some juicy quotes, turns much more somber, meaningful, philosophical and of course, funny along the way. There are some wickedly sharp observations throughout and a terrific give-as-good-as-you-can-get rat-a-tat delivery. Much of the conversation centers on success, artistic dignity, fame and its trappings, but all of it is couched in relatable feelings of self-doubt, myriad fears and insecurity. Theres great complexity in their relationship too; genuine self-respect, but envy too. Wallace is wary of everything that success has given him, and yet Lipsky is covetous of everything that he has achieved, and the schism yields a lot of very human texture.

Two writers bonding over the work, their self-awareness and how their efforts are perceived can only sustain an audience of non-authors so far, but The End Of The Tour understands the necessity to communicate universal truths. Based on Lipskys memoir Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with , the adaptation by (Pondsoldts college professor) is extremely alive, taping into shared fears, worries and philosophies with an authentic and familiar immediacy that feels like it was transcribed as it happened in the moment.

 

Most resonant and moving is Wallaces vulnerable admissions of loneliness, the constant low-level hum of anxiety he experiences, the worries of phoniness and the complicated issues of self-worth being caught up in success. Complications in the trip ensue thanks to what feel like genuine moments of masculine rivalry and how the men want to be perceived. The talks are intellectually competitive, feature moments of jealousy and a blossoming friendship thats affected by Wallace's protective distancing. A bond is formed, but theres a fragility thats not quite reciprocated either. Mostly a two-hander, theres some great feminine relief from male ego in Joan Cusack (a scene stealer as usual), , from and ( shows up briefly too).

James Pondsolt has always had great performances in movies that I liked, but never quite loved (Mary-Elizabeth Wilson is amazing in , but the movie itself never really got to me and obviously had a big breakout in , but I cant say I was head over heels for the movie). But The End Of The Tour really honors two great performances, stays out of their way, and yet coalesces all these great little moments in a terrifically compelling way. And yet youd be hard-pressed to recall any great director-y choices outside of some fine and relevant music selections that feel like a spin through Pondsoltds college mixtape (Felt, Magnetic Fields, Pavement, Brian Eno, The Tindersticks, and , all feature). But thats the point; showiness isnt necessary and Ponsoldt quietly stages some truly terrific scenes and performances.

I often find the cloyingly whimsical scores of for to be really maddening. But as hes shown with and other indie filmmakers, when utilizing some completely different musical muscles he can be wonderfully effective. And the way his gauzy score taps into some of the introspection and inherent melancholy behind both men is simply aces, and really hits some sweet spots.

Ponsoldt's careful execution of some pretty uneventful locations is really admirable. Much of the movies takes place in drab hotels, Wallaces dingy dorm-room-esque house or in vehiclesbut the way he orchestrates the ups and downs of their relationship within these environments, with tenderness and wit, is really sublime.

And as a film that mostly stays in the pocket, letting the actors do all the heavy lifting, Ponsoldts finally lets go a little bit and turns the last act into something emotionally soaring. The film's movies look at isolation, confidence and connection reverberates deeply and a carefully placed flashback of Wallace in the throes of joy are genuinely moving and earned. Intimate, soul-baring and winning, The End Of The Tour is a special, lovely little gem worth cherishing. [B+]


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