Blu-ray Review: The End of the Tour

TourBlu STUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: James Ponsoldt | CAST: Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack, Mamie Gummer, Ron Livingston, Mickey Summer
RELEASE DATE: 11/3/15 | PRICE: DVD $19.98, Blu-ray $24.99
BONUSES: commentary, featurette, deleted scenes, more
SPECS: R | 106 min. | Drama | 2.40:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video | Overall

 

The End of the Tour stars Jason Segel (Sex Tape) as the late author David Foster Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg (To Rome with Love) as writer David Lipsky, who joined Wallace at the tail end of his 1996 Infinite Jest book tour in order to interview Wallace for Rolling Stone magazine, and later wrote the bestselling Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace about the experience.

The was a film that made me profoundly nostalgic for my own early-90s college days, when I participated along with other Creative Writing majors in many a late-night, painfully earnest, hours-long conversation about the nature of writing and being a writer, over more bongs and beers than I care to remember. Whether those conversations would have been interesting to anybody other than ourselves is doubtful—and, unfortunately, and despite having more mature and professionally accomplished participants, The End of the Tour suffers a similar affliction.

Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel in The End of the Tour.

Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel in The End of the Tour.

Of course there’s a wary dance between the interviewer, trying to pry personal revelations from a reticent interview subject, and the interviewee who’s trying equally hard to control the direction and perception of the conversation. But there’s inherently very little in the way of narrative peaks and valleys in such an exchange. While a book may be able to compensate for that by getting deep into the minds of the characters, the essentially visual medium of film is at a disadvantage—one that director James Ponsoldt  (The Spectacular Now) never adequately compensates for. Cinematographer Jakob Ihre does what he can, but there are only so many ways to shoot two guys talking in a car, and none of them is interesting enough to sustain an entire film.

That said, Segel and Eisenberg are both fine, while the brief supporting work by Ron Livingston (Dinner for Schmucks), Joan Cusack (Grosse Pointe Blank), Mamie Gummer (Twelve Thirty), and Anna Chlumsky (TV’s Veep) is solid. But none of it helps to enliven the proceedings.

Of the disc’s supplemental materials, the most interesting is a brief conversation with composer Danny Elfman, who relates that he got the movie gig through a chance meeting with assistant director Nick Harvard while the two were playing water polo. Elfman, who’s best known for his scores for the large-scale films of Tim Burton, explains the appeal of taking on a low budget indie like The End of the Tour.

“The thing that makes it easy to decide orchestration on a small film is that there’s no money and that makes it fun and challenging,” he states.

 

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About Gwen

Gwen Cooper is a movie and TV lover and the author of Homer's Odyssey (no, not the one you're thinking of).