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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The End of the Tour (Blu-ray)
The End of the Tour (Blu-ray)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // November 3, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted November 20, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

Idolizing your heroes is one thing, meeting them is another. This applies doubly for your literary heroes. Since writing is such a personal and somewhat isolating art, our favorite writers might not match the rock stars we imagine in our minds. For example, my love for Philip K. Dick's work can't be understated. But whether or not I would have loved to spend a weekend with him, knowing what I know about his real life behavior and demeanor, I might not jump into that hypothetical offer.

Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) didn't particularly idolize David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), the introverted writer of the hit novel Infinite Jest, before deciding to tail him during the final leg of his book tour in 1996 for an article. Lipsky himself had published a book not so long ago, a book that didn't really catch on with his peers. Why did this thousand-page book written by an unassuming-looking guy living in the snow covered flatlands of Bloomington, Illinois and still teaching creative writing at a state college speak so powerfully to the reader? Obsessed with the book and Wallace, Lipsky perhaps constructed an image of the writer as a luminary or revolutionary figure, and got something much more complex.

Based on the five days that Lipsky spent with Wallace during Wallace's final book tour trip to Minneapolis, The End of the Tour is an honest and insightful examination of a writer's responsibility to the reader and himself, as well as the delicate balance between the two. Especially when it comes to intimately personal works like Infinite Jest, it's one thing to pour one's heart out into the page, and another to open it up for public consumption. When Lipsky meets Wallace, he's in the midst of figuring out how to relate to his recent fame.

He definitely has his reservations about "selling out", or being molded into an archetypical literary figure by the mainstream media so his publisher can sell a couple of thousand of extra copies to readers who might not fully appreciate his material in the first place. But at the same time, his experience with Lipsky also might make him realize how isolated he might have been and that perhaps a modicum of popularity might do him good.

James Ponsoldt is a director who takes premises that look uninteresting or tired and manages to breathe new life into them with dialogue, performances, and character development that rings true. The Spectacular Now was a typical teen drama on the surface, but Ponsoldt managed to infuse real life sympathy to the characters. The End of the Tour is basically a series of vignettes as Wallace and Lipsky jump from one book tour location to another. The film is incredibly light on plot, but makes up for it with long yet captivating conversation scenes between Wallace and Lipsky.

There are films where the characters can articulate their thoughts so perfectly, so delicately, and with so much passion, that we can watch them do nothing but talk for hours on ends. Like I'd do with the characters in My Dinner With Andre and Slacker, I can easily watch Eisenberg and Segel as Lipsky and Wallace get into long arguments about the meaning of fame, why middle-class white Americans are so miserable when they have every luxury available at their fingertips, and any other odd subject for hours.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

The End of the Tour takes place in Bloomington and Minneapolis, so get ready for a lot of whites and grays. The 1080p transfer does a near-perfect job capturing the cold beauty of the locations. It's not a film that utilizes a lot of contrast, but when it appears, the black levels are represented really well.

Audio:

As you might guess, The End of the Tour is very dialogue-based, so most of the sound comes from the front speakers. The dialogue in the DTS-HD 5.1 transfer is mixed very well and can be heard clearly. Danny Elfman's minimalist score adds nice hypnotic background music to the piece.

Extras:

Behind the Tour: This is a very open making-of documentary, about 25 minutes long, that stays away from the usual EPK flatteries and brings the audience right into the production, until we feel like we're part of the crew.

A Conversation with Composer Danny Elfman: In this 8-minute piece, Elfman interestingly delves into his first years as a film composer, and briefly mentions his working experience with The End of the Tour.

Deleted Scenes: Seven minutes of short conversational snippets between Lipsky and Wallace.

Audio Commentary with James Ponsoldt, Jason Segel, and Screenwriter Donald Margulies: This is a very informal yet informative commentary that digs really deep into the production process. Highly recommended.

Final Thoughts:

The End of the Tour is a sobering and unflinching look at what it means to expose one's mind and soul through words, and the complex consequences that follow. It's a thought-provoking experience, driven by excellent natural performances by Segel and Eisenberg. I still haven't read Infinite Jest and don't know much about Wallace beyond his fame (Which is the kind of recognition he probably wished to avoid), but the film's themes were universal enough to pull me in. I have a feeling that true fans of Wallace's work will get a lot more out of The End of the Tour.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com

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