Actors have often said that comedy is harder to do than drama, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when a primarily comedic actor decides to flex their dramatic muscles and they succeed wonderfully. We’ve seen fantastic dramatic work from known comedians like Steve Carell (“Foxcatcher”), Jim Carrey (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), Bill Murray (“Lost in Translation”), Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig (“The Skeleton Twins”), and Mila Kunis (“Black Swan”) just to name a few.
The latest addition to the list is Jason Segel, who steps into the skin of famed author David Foster Wallace, for James Ponsoldt’s “The End of the Tour.” Rather than a straight biopic of Wallace’s tragically short life, “Tour” focuses on a short period of time soon after the publication of his highly influential novel Infinite Jest. Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (played here with impressive precision by Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg), when Lipsky joined him for the last days of his book tour. So it’s a pretty aptly named story.
Working from a screenplay by Donald Margulies, based on Lipsky’s own tome, Ponsoldt really lets Segel and Eisenberg do the heavy lifting, just letting the two actors inhabit their roles and let them come to life. I was shocked to learn while watching the extra features that Segel and Eisenberg didn’t know each other at all before this film. This film is all dialogue, and the two leads do a tremendous job handling the demands of the script.
Lipsky, a reporter and prospective novelist himself, admires Wallace and his work so much that he convinces his editor (unnamed and played by Ron Livingston) to allow him to write a story about the book tour, which is not something Rolling Stone had really done before.
From here the film is basically two strangers getting to know each other, as Lipsky and Segel have long conversations about a wide variety of topics, some mundane and some profound. The success of the film is that it doesn’t call attention to itself when the characters are getting into something a little deeper – everything is given the same weight, which keeps the film interesting thoughout and prevents it from going through any lulls.
“The End of the Tour” is the kind of film that wouldn’t play well for a mass audience, but for those willing to seek it out it offers plenty of rewards. Its most valuable asset is a tremendous performance from Segel, which offers assurances that he can handle more than just comedy.
Four special features are presented on this Blu-ray. There is an audio commentary with director James Ponsoldt, screenwriter Donald Margulies, and actor Jason Segel; an informative “Behind the Tour” Featurette; “A Conversation with Composer Danny Elfman”; and a few minutes of Deleted Scenes. It’s a fine grouping of features but nothing particularly amazing or revelatory.
Lionsgate presents The End of the Tour. Written by Donald Margulies, based on the book by David Lipsky. Directed by James Ponsoldt. Starring Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack, Mamie Gummer, Ron Livingston, and Mickey Sumner. Run Time: 106 minutes. Rated R. Released: November 3, 2015.
Tags: David Lipsky, James Ponsoldt, Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, The End of the Tour