David Foster Wallace, the man beneath the bandanna…

17 Oct

wallaceDavid Foster Wallace, the man beneath the bandanna…

Chronicling the life of the late author David Foster Wallace, biopic The End of the Tour follows the writer and Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky as they take a road trip shortly after the release of Infinite Jest in 1996. Starring Jason Segel as Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg as Lipsky, director James Ponsoldt successfully portrays the relationship between two writers as we simultaneously learn about the inner workings of Wallace’s mind.  

davidfosterwallace3Wallace suffered from serious mental illness, anxiety, and depression for much of his life. His writing was a mix of styles – heavily used made-up jargon, footnotes, and endnotes, which he has said was the only way he could reflect the way he perceived reality. His work was often challenging and complicated for readers, but he believed a writer’s job was to remind readers of just how smart they are. Wallace also often used irony and satire in his writings and felt that these two elements, while offering entertainment, were going to vex a generation of writers. His stories often dealt with post-modernism and our ever-growing consumer appetites.

Given his personal outlook on things such as fame and stardom, it is unlikely that Wallace would have found solace in a film about him and his life. The author would likely have seen it as an ill-fated attempt to cash in on a ‘literary stardom’ that he didn’t see himself having.

fosterhologram1The film shows several sides of Wallace’s mental illness, and while this wasn’t portrayed poorly, his family and friends feel David should be known for more than this. They also feel that Wallace would have taken issue with an interview from 18 years ago being repurposed as a major motion picture. His consent was explicitly for a Rolling Stone interview, not a major film production or any other medium. As The End of the Tour is based on Lipsky’s book, there has been little that the Wallace estate has been able to do about the film.

That said, Segel’s performance as Wallace has been highly praised, and while no one can say for sure that it was accurate, it was certainly an ambitious and in-depth portrayal. It has also been said that Eisenberg as Lipsky nailed the representation of an entire profession. Little quirks like checking to see if the red light on his recorder was on accurately mimicked the mannerisms of a journalist. Additionally, the intimacy between Segel and Eisenberg, as Wallace and Lipsky, is memorable and engaging.

wallace (1)The End of the Tour was first released at the Sundance Film Festival in January of this year when A24 Films and DirecTV picked up distribution rights to the film. It was then set for a theatrical release in July and gained universal acclaim. Although those close to him may not have found this film the most accurate portrayal of his life as a whole, it still deserves recognition for its stunning performances and strong attempt to peer into the life of a legendary author.


Beth_KellyWriter Beth Michelle is a Chicago-based blogger with a nasty film addiction. Her primary interests include pulp cinema, fashion photography and vintage Japanese film cameras.


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