Athens native and Cedar Shoals graduate James Ponsoldt has directed four gems, and his latest, The End of the Tour, is the best yet. Dominated by two award-worthy performances from Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg, The End of the Tour recounts a five-day interview during the 1996 book tour for David Foster Wallace’s epic masterpiece, Infinite Jest, which I now have no excuse not to read (besides its 1,008 page length).
Jason Segel, as the late Wallace, is best known for light comedic fare like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but he reaches deep into his bag of Nick Andopolis tricks. I have little idea what Wallace looked or sounded like, but Segel must have nailed it, because he sheds any recollections of “How I Met Your Mother”’s Marshall Eriksen. He is truly a revelation; that oft-overused critical chestnut genuinely applies when an actor accomplishes something so different from and greater than anything else he has done to date.
He hulks and sulks and muses philosophical about loneliness to Eisenberg’s awed interviewer, David Lipsky. They dance the delicate dance of interviewer and cautious interviewee. Wallace is frightened of being found a fraud or waking up to find his success a dream. Lipsky, a novelist himself, wants that success for himself. The two men also forge a sweet bond of friendship. Ponsoldt’s poignant film unfolds like a character-driven play, while capturing its mid-’90s setting with perfection. 2015 has seen few films as confidently affecting.
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