MOVIE REVIEW: ‘The End Of The Tour’ Is A Life-Changing Experience

Film: The End Of The Tour
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel
Directed by: James Ponsoldt

It’s amazing how one conversation can forever change the course of our lives. You could be speaking with a close friend or a stranger on the street and, without warning, find yourself seeing the world in a whole new light. Such moments are rare and incredibly fleeting, often known solely to the people involved in the conversation itself, but the new film from James Ponsoldt finds a way to capture the magic of honest dialogue and share its beauty with the world.

The End Of The Tour is a movie for people who enjoy podcasts. Over the course of several days viewers bare witness to an interview conducted by writer David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) with author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) at the end of the promotional tour for Infinite Jest. There is no plot beyond the numerous conversations that take place between the two leads, nor is there any need for something more to be present. By stripping away everything except the thoughts, opinions, fears, and humor of his leads, Ponsoldt is able to envelope viewers in a private universe that only existed for a brief moment in time between two people whose individual battles against self-doubt are a constant source of struggle. If ever there were two people more relatable on screen for those that feel drive to create, I have yet to see it.

The source material for the film is derived from the audio recording Lipsky made during his time with Wallace. As a result, the tape recorder the writer relies on in the film serves as a constant reminder that what we are witnessing is far more real than the majority of films that claim to be based on actual events. There is no doubt that Ponsoldt had to take some liberties with the actions unfolding on screen, but in terms of the actual thoughts and feelings expressed they’re entirely those of Lipsky and Wallace. Ponsoldt treats his job as director as that of a fly on the wall. He’s pulling no punches, but he’s also not really throwing any. Ponsoldt seems contempt with letting Eisenberg and Segel lead the show, which turns out to be the smartest play he could have made.

It’s no secret that Jesse Eisenberg has considerable acting chops, and he again delivers an impressive turn as Lipsky, but when all is said and done it’s Jason Segel who stands out as the true highlight of Tour. His performance tears away any preconceived notions you may have had of his abilities on screen and showcases an actor who has unquestionably reached a turning point in his career. The funnyman audiences have grown to love for over a decade is still present, but he’s also matured into a dynamic and complex dramatic actor who steals practically every other scene in The End Of The Tour and makes it his own. Lipsky, much like the direction of Ponsoldt, fades away as Segel’s rapturous delivery commands your full attention. If the Oscars don’t take notice of one or both actors, then there is no hope for The Academy as a critical force.

The End Of The Tour is a movie that lives and dies off the strength of its performances, and fortunately for audiences there is not a single moment of mediocrity to be found in the film’s 106-minute runtime. Ponsoldt has pulled off something of a subtle miracle by finding a way to let the dialogue of a film take precedent over the visuals, and in doing so has earned as much credit for the success of the film as either of its leads. I’m not typically one to use phrases like ‘tour de force,’ but that is an incredibly fitting way to describe this film. It’s wholly unique, yet built around feelings and experiences that are largely universal, which leads me to believe it may very well be impossible for anyone to walk away from this film feeling unchanged by the experience. As far as I’m concerned the power to move people is the true sign of a great film, and that is exactly what The End Of The Tour will do to you if given a chance.


Review written byJames Shotwell

James Shotwell
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