“The End of the Tour” wasn’t one of the most anticipated films of this Sundance. The film, about reporter David Lipsky’s profile of writer David Foster Wallace during the “Infinite Jest” tour, wasn’t approved by Wallace’s estate, and early photos of Jason Segel as Wallace didn’t inspire confidence. The worrying was all for naught: “The End of the Tour” is one of the early highlights of the festival, with critics praising James Ponsoldst’s sensitive direction and the performances of Jesse Eisenberg (as Lipsky) and Segel. The latter in particular is deemed a revelation, showing a new side of himself as an actor without ever seeming like he’s indulging in Oscar-baiting. A24 picked up the film before the festival, and it’s easy to see why.
“The End of the Tour” has no U.S. release date yet.
A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club
Segel definitely understands the secret insecurity that plagues so many writers, even the ones who achieved the level of success DFW did. We really believe we’re watching a man who has wrestled with personal demons, and who’s still trying to reconcile his widespread popularity with his discontent. Read more.
Daniel Fienberg, HitFix
I haven’t watched enough interview footage of David Foster Wallace to know if what Segel is doing in “The End of the Tour” is channeling the “Infinite Jest” author in a literal way, but it’s still a transformative performance in terms of vocal timbre and cadence and in terms of physicality. Segel captures the intellect and loneliness and discomfort that we sensed Wallace to have and even when Segel plays Wallace’s considerable sense of humor, the timing and rhythms are different from what he honed in his years on Judd Apatow productions. Read more.
Jack Giroux, The Film Stage
Lipsky’s arc works — and Eisenberg sells it — but it’s Segel’s take on David Foster Wallace that works wonders. The Wallace presented in the film is wildly entertaining, empathetic and deeply human. Segel’s performance is completely sincere, which is perfect for a character who truly believes in everything he tells his cynical interviewer. Not for a second do we doubt Wallace is genuine about his life, work, and thoughts when speaking with Lipsky. Read more.
Dennis Harvey, Variety
A tete-a-tete between two writers that was acclaimed in book form fails to translate effectively to the screen in “The End of the Tour.” Despite high-powered talent — playwright Donald Margulies making his screenplay debut, helmer James Ponsoldt fresh off the excellent “Spectacular Now,” an attention-getting cast — there’s too little drama and insight to this adaptation of David Lipsky’s account of his lengthy interview/encounter with novelist David Foster Wallace.Read more.
Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian
But this is not a David Foster Wallace biopic. It is based on reporter Dave Lipsky’s memoir of spending five days with Wallace during the “Infinite Jest” publicity tour, 12 years before Wallace’s suicide. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lipsky is a toned-down Salieri, a part that Eisenberg glides into. Lipsky’s books go straight to the remainder bin as he plugs away filing short copy for Rolling Stone magazine. His editor takes pity on him when he begs for the assignment to profile Wallace, of whom he is greatly jealous but recognizes is every bit the genius all the critics say he is. Read more.
Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair
Segel handles Wallace’s intricate, discursive speech with remarkable dexterity, putting Wallace’s brilliant, troubled mind on display for all of us to admire, while still managing to play a human being. That’s a tricky feat for any actor, let alone one mostly known for a CBS sitcom and a handful of Apatowian comedies. But he more than pulls it off, giving one of those stunning, career-defining performances that, cynically or not, one comes to film festivals hoping to see. Read more.
Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist
As a film that mostly stays in the pocket, letting the actors do all the heavy lifting, Ponsoldt finally lets go a little bit and turns the last act into something emotionally soaring. The movie’s look at isolation, confidence, and connection reverberates deeply, and a carefully placed flashback of Wallace in the throes of joy are genuinely moving and earned. Intimate, soul-baring, and winning, “The End Of The Tour” is a special, lovely little gem worth cherishing. Read more.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
Over the opening scenes, Jesse Eisenberg, playing Lipsky, describes reading Wallace as feeling “your eyelids pulled open,” and providing the actual sensation “of being David Foster Wallace.” That process of osmosis is an accurate enough description of what the filmmakers achieve, invaluably assisted by Jason Segel’s heartbreaking portrayal of the writer. This is a man of endless contradictions; he’s shaggy and sleepy-headed but sharp and always questioning, wryly candid but then unexpectedly defensive and guarded. The performance is easily Segel’s best work since “Freaks and Geeks,” devastating strictly on its own quiet terms. Read more.
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
Bedecked in Wallace’s signature head bandana and loose-limbed slovenliness, Segel is totally persuasive as a troubled brainiac, socking over Wallace’s uneven flow of verbiage and melting ever so slightly in the heat of a fanboy-interrogator. Read more.
Mike Ryan, Uproxx
Personally, I think Jason Segel is a talented actor who has been waiting for a role like this for a long time. I didn’t feel trepidation, but I was certainly curious. Admittedly, the last thing I wanted to see was Segel “going for his Oscar” and really amping up Wallace’s demons. Instead, Segel portrays Wallace as a kind man who loves his dogs. He’s shy, but also clever and funny. Segel’s Wallace is certainly aloof, but probably anyone would be with a reporter following his every step. There’s a devilish nature to Segel’s performance that makes Wallace seem, more than anything … human. Read more.
Kyle Smith, The New York Post
This year’s Sundance is shaping up as the Bromance Fest. At least the fifth movie about an odd-couple buddy duo (and the only one without a stated homosexual element) I’ve seen is “The End of the Tour,” and it’s by far the most moving and profound of them all, with a funny, lightly intellectual script by Pulitzer Prize winning dramatist Donald Margulies that should merit heavy awards consideration. Read more.
I’ve spent no time since seeing THE END OF THE TOUR thinking about a movie star in a do-rag, & all of it thinking about loneliness.
— Eric Hynes (@eshynes) January 24, 2015
THE END OF THE TOUR: The intersection of genius and shyness with a screenplay I want to sit and read and Segel’s best work. It’s great.
— Brian Tallerico (@Brian_Tallerico) January 24, 2015
THE END OF THE TOUR: This time Jesse Eisenberg is not the savant. Pleasant enough. I dig inclusion of dancing David Foster Wallace #Sundance
— Monica Castillo (@mcastimovies) January 24, 2015
End of the Tour: A visceral, bookish Almost Famous in romancing a journalistic bond. Segel shines as a reluctantly shy DFWallace. #Sundance
— Tomris Laffly (@TomiLaffly) January 24, 2015
The End of The Tour gets so much right about reporting magazine profiles, but it works bc it’s empathetic about so much more. #sundance.
— Logan Hill (@loganhill33) January 24, 2015
Can’t say whether END OF THE TOUR captures DFW but it’s very astute about the awkwardness of dudes trying to become friends. #Sundance15
— Noel Murray (@NoelMu) January 24, 2015