“I am 34 years-old and alone in a room with a piece of paper” is a statement by David Foster Wallace that I will remember for its inherent loneliness. While I am used to film introducing me to visual creativity, music, places, personalities, ideas and rare insight, “The End Of The Tour” left me touched and heart-weary like art-for-the-soul that has been stained and then taken away.
This film dubbed as “the best interview you have ever seen”, prepared me for a talky film, my favorite kind. What I wasn’t ready for was my wish to hug, hold, rock and mother this sensitive writer, who is often conferred with the rather emblematic ” The Proust of Gen-X”.
Wallace, himself, did not acknowledge those born from 1966 through 1976 as actually having a community. His canonization happened before his death by suicide.
Knowing that he would take his own brilliant life just a dozen years after his 1996 book tour for “Infinite Jest” made me hyper-vigilant. I wanted to take in his ambience, his soft-spoken facileness with language. How could I help this clinically depressed over-thinker?! David Foster Wallace played by Jason Segel got to me. What else can you wish for from an actor! Segel’s bandana swathed DFW intensely gazing inward was like Wallace’s description of the function of fiction “making heads throb heart-like”.
This film is not a bio-pic, though we do get disclosures like an eight-day suicide watch, a background as a high school jock, addiction problems, an admittance that he is hard to be around. The film is about making your mark on the world without becoming part of the world.
It is about not disappearing by becoming a creature of the system. It is about fame and its quest. It is about the other David, the journalist David Lipsky, (Jesse Eisenberg) who never wrote the article for “Rolling Stone” even after interviewing, observing, and living with Wallace for five days. The encounter, the medicine cabinet lists, the Alanis Morissette poster, the TV bingeing, the M&M gorging and the events involving lumps of Skoal were put away on cassette tapes.
The post-modern knight was not forgotten though. I imagine the dog-stolen shoe and DFW’s post-it note are still on Lipsky’s bookcase. Their relationship was the stuff of uneasy friendship-making: jealousy , pride and competition flourished, “the hiss of egos”, but respect won out. The “unpleasantly pleasant” accepts “the pleasantly unpleasant”. The shy, self-absorbed Wallace tells Lipsky, as Lipsky readies to return to NYC, that “I am not so sure you want to be me.”
Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies has written a beautiful screenplay about this rather macho-relationship and testosterone one-upmanship. Philosophy, drug addiction and being naked in a pink room with a drain in the floor are meshed with love of dogs, the quiet of nature, and the usefulness of car key clickers. And not to forget fame,Wallace’s “food pellets from the universe.”
Director James Ponsoldt deserves accolades, too. I wish there were a lengthier classroom teaching scene and a few passages of DFW’s prose, but the intense passion moving through this low key film is worthy of an Oscar. I have not read Wallace, but I will now. I may read Lipsky’s “Art Fair”, too. I will say the St. Ignatius prayer “I do your will…” for all the Davids out there.