I watched The End of the Tour on the strength of its reviews, and I liked it. But it wasn’t exactly the transcendent experience that some reviews promised. (Some of this may be due to the fact that I’ve never read a word David Foster Wallace wrote).
Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg are as excellent as the reviews say, and that’s good: it’s basically the two of them the entire time. Since I don’t know anything about Wallace, I can’t really comment on the authenticity of Segel’s portrayal, but I definitely didn’t feel like I was watching Jason Segel on screen. While Segel gets the lion’s share of big speeches, Eisenberg balances him nicely. In addition to his usual prickly, motor-mouthed nervousness, he runs through a range of other emotions without ever feeling too studied. In a handful of scenes (when he sees the stacks of Wallace’s books in the spare bedroom, when he unconvincingly pretends not to hit on Wallace’s ex-girlfriend, and when he reacts to Wallace’s offhand remark about heroin in the car and then waffles about whether to ask him), subtle things like Eisenberg’s body language, posture, line of sight, and tone of voice convey so much about his character’s motivations. Not that Segel’s performance is showy, but it is very verbal and Eisenberg’s provides a nice non-verbal contrast.
One technical note, though: if you’re a production designer and you’re setting up a shot at an airport in the Midwest (either Monroe County outside of Bloomington or Indianapolis International – it’s not clear) for a movie set in winter 1996, you have two options:
- Clear the lot completely (which would add to the feeling of the scene and be totally appropriate for the Midwest in winter, especially at a dinky little airport like Monroe County)
- Cover the non-period cars with snow (likewise appropriate for the setting).
But don’t do what The End of the Tour does and have David Foster Wallace and David Lipsky walk by a 2010 Nissan Juke in 1996. This may have been an easy one for me to spot based on my interest in cars, but – as I said in my post on Boyhood – I now have pretty high standards for recent period production design.