The End of the Tour

★ ★ ★ ★ (out of five)

I didn’t have a clue that a movie about David Foster Wallace was even in the works, let alone being already released, so it was a bit of a surprise today when a friend suggested going to see one. The End of the Line portrays the end of Wallace’s tour for Infinite Jest in 1996, where he was accompanied by a reporter for the Rolling Stone on a trip to a reading in Minneapolis.

Although Infinite Jest was a little too abstract for my taste, I do appreciate that Wallace has a way with words that makes him an important figure in the literary history of our generation. Digging into his personality a little more through the movie was much more revealing than reading Wikipedia or other biographical documents on him could ever be (even if it depends heavily on the reporter’s recollection of events). I had roughly the same reaction to the movie that I did after reading Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs. I’d already implicitly built an internal representation of Wallace based on what I’d read about him and the work that he’d done, and what I saw here challenged it significantly.

Seeing Jason Segel in the role of Wallace was a surprise (I hadn’t read any material beforehand), and him pulling off the role brilliantly was an even bigger one. The acting all around was strong and believable.

A little like Infinite Jest itself, this movie is one of depth and subtlety. Viewers are given a glimpse into very human and very relatable characters who bond over insightful conversations on a wide range of topics. At its conclusion, you’re left with wisdom and a view of Wallace which is both subjective and incomplete, but still satisfying. Recommended.

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