The following is a facsimile of the existential freak out had by our critic after screening The End of the Tour.
What the fuck am I even doing with my life? I don’t even know anymore. I had goals once, man. I had dreams. I was going to take shit over, hit the world by storm. Whatever happened to that kid? I should probably just quit what I’m doing and go sell insurance or, like, medical equipment or something because nothing I write means anything. Any words I put to paper are going to be pointless white noise, a part of the murmur in the background of a movie’s restaurant scene—incomprehensible and unimportant.
Jesus, this is why I avoid David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) to begin with. It’s playing chess against Gary Kasparov, matching wits with Mark Twain, drum battling against Neil Peart, or measuring dicks with Ron fucking Jeremy. It’s unfair is what it is. Why would I do this to myself? What on earth was I thinking by putting myself in the position to be reminded of my glaring inadequacies as a writer? I’m a rolling hill at the footsteps of the Himalayas, a part of the landscape you fail to consider in the shadows of something awesome.
I’ll never write anything that would inspire David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) to spend five minutes with me, let alone the five days he spent with Wallace as the book tour for Infinite Jest came to a close. At best, I’m a stranger in the crowd that he nods and smiles at as he maneuvers his way towards someone more important, more interesting. A handshake, if I’m lucky, but a polite one; perfunctory, not meaningful.
Maybe I’ll write a book. Yeah, a book! That’s what I’ll do. Something massive and poignant, weighty and epic. The kind of book critics gush over in The New Yorker or NYT or The New Republic; a work of genius that crosses the threshold into pure pop culture phenomenon and inspires people from here to London to buy a copy that they claim to have read when it actually just sits on their bookshelf gathering dust (you mean like you did with Infinite Jest?) SHUT UP BRAIN I’M NOT TRYING TO HEAR THAT! Besides, I totally read Infinite Jest (no you didn’t, you got stoned and looked at words for three weeks before moving onto some sci-fi book, or possibly a Batman comic, back in college) GODDAMMIT BRAIN!
What, it’s true.
God you’re right. I’m a fraud. A failure. A nothing. I can’t even read a book like Infinite Jest, let alone write one. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m barely even a writer—sitting on the couch in my boxer shorts while attempting to intellectualize television and movies doesn’t make me a writer. It makes me clutter, scenery. It certainly doesn’t make me worthy of a cinematic portrayal, let alone a cinematic portrayal with the kind of raw power displayed in The End of the Tour. At best, I’m a very special episode of Degrassi about the dangers of partying too hard in college.
Well, maybe if you put on some pants…
Oh really? Is that all? “Just put on some pants.” Is that what separates me from the likes of fucking David Foster fucking Wallace? What would even be the point of that, brain? I’m just going to be sitting in my living room writing movie reviews all day. I fail to see the difference between pants and no pants.
Um, speaking of writing movie reviews…shouldn’t you be…you know…
Huh? Oh, yeah. Right. Listen, I guess existential freak outs don’t really occur in a vacuum, do they? There’s typically something that kicks them off. It’s telling that this was my reaction to watching The End of the Tour. I mean, it’s 100 minutes of two amazing writers suffering from serious cases of envy. Wallace and Lipsky are a pair of writer’s writers, each of whom with a body of work that’s enviable to the layman and rage inducing to the writer. I guess that’s sort of a trade secret that I’m not really supposed to talk about, but it’s true. All of us read the works of the greats and get a little jealous that it wasn’t us who wrote it. It helps that Wallace and Lipsky were brought to life so beautifully by Segel and Eisenberg, each of whom give the performances of their careers. It’s the latest in a long line of films in the “two people sitting around talking” sub-genre of arthouse, and it never sinks to the level of callous pretension. It’s a beautifully handled tête-à-tête, wonderfully adapted by Donald Margulies from Lipsky’s book, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. It’s not a biopic so much as a slice of life, a glimpse into the mind of Wallace from the eyes of Lipsky as he wrote his article for Rolling Stone. I’m sure there will be many people out there who’d be bored by this movie, what with all the talking and all (Hell, in the movie, Wallace himself expressed admiration for both Die Hard and Broken Arrow, forcing one to wonder how he would’ve viewed a movie such as this, were he still around to view it) but I was rapt. The End of the Tour is a wonderful little film, full of lovely reminders of the kind of writer Wallace was and is definitely a surprising delight for the mid-summer season.
See! That wasn’t so hard, was it?
No, I guess not. But seriously, can I be done with David Foster Wallace now? I’m tired of straining my neck to look at his staggering brilliance, and this is all starting to screw with my head.
Oh, I noticed. It’d be hard not to notice, from where I’m sitting. But I’d say you’re good.
Thank Christ. This was getting weird.
Yeah…it really was. It really, really was.
The End of the Tour is in limited release now and will expand to more theaters August 14 before opening everywhere August 21.