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THE END OF TOUR

© 2015/2019 Ron Barbagallo

THE END OF TOUR
As far as summer movies go, The End of Tour is not going to get much media attention. There will not be an aisle in Target devoted to its merchandising or a sequel made to further the franchise. This is because The End of Tour is an indie film, and in the realm of this type of movie,  James Ponsoldt, who directed this work, hasn't reinvented the wheel. Rather, the film he's made glides politely down the genre’s center lane, providing a bit of an uneven ride as its engine chugs along what is a literary path.

 

Ponsoldt's effort endeavors to tell the tale of American author David Foster Wallace, and it stars Jesse Eisenberg of The Social Network and comic actor Jason Segel. Most of you will know Segel from his work with the Muppets, and from films where he's genuinely performed well like How I Met Your Mother and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. In The End of Tour, he makes an attempt to stretch his Muppety wings into drama, like so many comics have before him. But his performance is flat and the role Segel took on might have been better gifted to an actor where introspection was more an inherent part of their soul and not something someone put on for the sake of making a fashion statement.

 

Segel aside, the story unfolds after David Foster Wallace wrote a 1,000 plus page novel entitled The Infinite Jest, an effort which skyrocketed Wallace to international fame. So meteoric was Wallace's rise that fans made trips to his house like the kids who pestered J.D. Salinger, and journalists desperate to be adjacent to real talent, vied to interview him hoping to take a Lourdes-like drink from Wallace's deep literary well.

 

One such journalist was Rolling Stone staff writer David Lipsky, and while this film is bookended in the awareness that Wallace committed suicide in 2008, The End of Tour is singularly focused on the time Lipsky visited Wallace at his rural home in Illinois. Lipsky's intention was to follow Wallace on the final leg of his Infinite Jest book tour looking for a story; a story that was never published but later became the basis for this film.

 

Anyone expecting greater insight than one might expect from a setup like this will be disappointed as the film is little more than a pale-toned duet set against a colorless winter sky. Wordy, and like a lot of indie films - long in a sense of neediness.

 

This is not to say The End of Tour is not without moments that connect, and the credit for those emotions go completely to screenwriter Donald Margulies who provided the wordy sword fight for actors Eisenberg and Segel to recite. Maybe apt that a film about a world class writer succeeds on the merits of its words, but I'd argue that the miscasting of Jason Segel as Wallace was a major misstep. One as large as it may have been to cast Robin Williams in the Daniel Day-Lewis part in Spielberg's film Lincoln.

 

Sure, Segel wore the Axl Rose do-rags and the depressed author 'handbags and gladrags' well enough but low rent costuming was not the problem. The lack of gravitas was. At no time did Segel light up the screen with any hints of Wallace's struggle. Nor were there any traces of the genius or the salesmanship that belonged behind the eyes of someone who was clearly in so much pain.

 

Instead, this felt very much like another Hollywood actor taking on an Indie film in the hope of presenting to the world another facet to their acting-diamond, and in this case that acting-diamond seemed imposed if not cartooned. Segel’s inabilities distracted me from surrendering to the narrative in a full way. Therefore I was never was convinced I was seeing Wallace on screen.

 

So why do I recommend the film?

 

Because it is not a film without its ability to touch, and even bring a tear to the corner of your eye. But the architect of those emotions go solely to this film's wordy if not sort of roundabout screenplay.

 

And maybe that's the 'infinite jest' here, right?

 

That a film about a writer features the understanding and subtext that goes along with a writer's journey. One that shows the voyage of literature is often a lonely one. One where the words spring from catharsis and are painted with tears.

Image courtesy of A24 films

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ARTICLES ON AESTHETICS IN ANIMATION

BY RON BARBAGALLO:

 

The Art of Making Pixar's Ratatouille is revealed by way of an introductory article followed by interviews with production designer Harley Jessup, director of photography/lighting Sharon Calahan and the film's writer/director Brad Bird.

 

Design with a Purpose, an interview with Ralph Eggleston uses production art from Wall-E to illustrate the production design of Pixar's cautionary tale of a robot on a futuristic Earth.

 

Shedding Light on the Little Matchgirl traces the path director Roger Allers and the Disney Studio took in adapting the Hans Christian Andersen story to animation.

 

The Destiny of Dalí's Destino, in 1946, Walt Disney invited Salvador Dalí to create an animated short based upon his surrealist art. This writing illustrates how this short got started and tells the story of the film's aesthetic.

 

A Blade Of Grass is a tour through the aesthetics of 2D background painting at the Disney Studio from 1928 through 1942.

 

Lorenzo, director / production designer Mike Gabriel created a visual tour de force in this Academy Award® nominated Disney short. This article chronicles how the short was made and includes an interview with Mike Gabriel.

 

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, an interview with Graham G. Maiden's narrates the process involved with taking Tim Burton's concept art and translating Tim's sketches and paintings into fully articulated stop motion puppets.

 

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, in an interview exclusive to this web site, Nick Park speaks about his influences, on how he uses drawing to tell a story and tells us what it was like to bring Wallace and Gromit to the big screen.

 

 

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