The prospect of Jason Segel playing David Foster Wallace was, to put it nicely, daunting. Male college students and literary buffs—the two most vocal cohorts of Wallace fans—did not hesitate to express their chagrin that the stoner comedy fan favorite would be playing the enigmatic and genius Infinite Jest writer. Wallace’s family objected to the movie being made.
Fast forward two years: The End of the Tour premiered at Sundance on January 23 and is yet to be screened elsewhere, making the film an impressive grab on IFF’s part. The first of this week’s IFF screenings showed in the Martinos Auditorium in Granoff last night. The film is slated for a limited release in July. Boasting direction by James Ponsoldt, coming off of his critically acclaimed The Spectacular Now, and with its fair share of controversy, The End of the Tour was, if nothing else, tantalizing.
The good news is that Segel soars above expectations, delivering a surprisingly nuanced performance that brings Wallace’s words to life. And what words they are. The End of the Tour is an adaptation of David Lipsky’s 2010 book Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, the true account of Lipsky’s time shadowing Wallace during the last four days of the Infinite Jest book tour.
Playwright Donald Margulies’ screenplay maintains much of the book’s insight. Part hyper-intellectual buddy comedy chock-full of snappy dialogue and witty retorts with its fair share of laughs, part genuinely moving rumination on how writers grasp for meaning through their work, the screenplay is truly driven forward by Wallace’s words.