Thursday, August 13, 2015
The End of the Tour: More of an Essay than a ReviewBy Tinsel & Tine Contributor and Illustrator Diane Roka
When I was a kid in the 70's, I would sit on the carpeted floor of our tiny local library (housed in a suburban mini-mall), wearing a tube top, denim gauchos, clogs and a feathered hairdo, and pore over a box of the latest Rolling Stone magazines. The giant plastic comb in my back pocket would be uncomfortable to sit on after a while, but I didn't care.
Journalists like Ben Fong-Torres and Cameron Crowe and photojournalists like Annie Leibowitz would travel and sometimes live "embedded" with the musicians they were covering. It sounded fantastic. Late night jam sessions in smoky hotel rooms. Singing on tour buses. "Aye," I thought, "a pirate's life for me! Where do I sign up?"
Unfortunately, that sort of journalism mostly dried up by the time I entered the working world in the 90's. Publicists were guarding the gates. Magazine budgets were cut. I contented myself with the occasional phoner and press junket and fantasized about the past.
So when I heard about the movie THE END OF THE TOUR, I got excited - a film about a long-form Rolling Stone article, focused on a cool writer, David Foster Wallace! In 1996 David Foster Wallace ( Jason Segel) wrote what was considered to be a ground-breaking, epic novel called "Infinite Jest" and became an overnight sensation, an actual literary celebrity. Writer/Journalist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) held Foster Wallace both in esteem and rivalry, and set about to make him the first Rolling Stone interview featuring a writer. The 5 day interview between the two scribes is the basis of director James Ponsoldt's film.
I loved that David had the requisite long hair, do-rag and flannel shirt of a 90's grunge musician, but he was driving a boring rental sedan through a depressing, slushy Midwestern winter landscape, scarfing candy from mini-marts and visiting The Mall of America. There was no romance to this. As Lester Bangs from "Almost Famous" might have said, he was one of the "Uncool".
But, when I looked at it another way, David couldn't have been cooler. He was extremely intelligent and insightful, but not arrogant about it. He didn't have the bitter edge that some writers take on, because he was selling lots of books and being called the "voice of a generation". Yet, he was self-aware enough not to buy into the hype.
Unlike most writers, he was tall, handsome and athletic. He was charming and soulful. And he had a child-like enthusiasm for popular culture. He sincerely enjoyed eating Hostess cupcakes and watching Charlie's Angels re-runs.
So, where's the conflict? In "The End of the Tour", most of the conflict is internal. Lipsky is jealous of David's talent and success. He's also torn between falling into a friendship with a likable guy, and remaining an objective professional journalist.
David has the classic writer's conflict. He's used to controlling his universe of the page. And, because he's served his time as a journalist, he's aware of just how easy it is to make your subject look like a jerk. Especially if there's jealousy in the mix.
|Illustration by Diane Roka|
David's estate has expressed anger that this film was made without their consent. Some of David's friends -- usually writers, have denigrated the film and Jason Segel's performance. "That's not the David I knew", they said. "They got him wrong."
I wonder if David would have been fascinated by all of this. Would he have been intrigued by the "Rashomon" syndrome that takes place when you interview many people about one subject? None of us behaves the same way with our mother, our boss, the postman, our lover. We calibrate our behavior for each of them, especially if we're empathetic, a trait everyone seems to agree David possessed. David's friends may not recognize Lipsky's version of David, but the audio tapes of their time together remain.
Then, there are our own personal filters - just as a man who stands 6 feet tall is considered petite to a pro basketball player.
In the end, I think that the filmmakers handled the issue effectively by book-ending the book tour with the present day. We know that the story is being told through Lipsky's eyes -- possibly an unreliable narrator because of his jealousy. And we know that this happened in the past, so Lipsky (and the film) is viewing David through the unreliability of memory, and the nostalgia for someone who's gone.
T&T's LAMB Score: 3.5 Outta 5
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