There are some fans of David Foster Wallace who may never be comfortable with the idea of a movie about the writer. It’s something that DFW certainly wouldn’t have been comfortable with: For years he was concerned about how an image of him as a Great Author was being carved into the public imagination—he called this version of himself “the statue”—and then he was concerned with how much he was concerned with living up to the statue.
It might help quiet some of these fears that the new movie The End of the Tour is, in many ways, about precisely this subject. An adaptation of David Lipsky’s book Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, the movie—which I was lucky enough to see at Sundance and which gets its first trailer today—is based on the conversations Lipsky had with Wallace on the book tour in support of Infinite Jest. Lipsky was there to profile the rising literary star, and many of their conversations were about Wallace’s celebrity and the process of profiling an author. Altogether, the movie makes for an appropriately meta portrait of the endlessly self-conscious Wallace.
Wallace is played by Jason Segel, and when it comes to the tangibles—Wallace’s way of speaking, his look—Segel may surprise fans with how much he basically nails it. Jesse Eisenberg has made a career of playing neurotic, intelligent, and jealous thinkers, and so it’s no surprise that he’s great as Lipsky. If you’ve already read the book, you might not find any grand revelations in the movie, though it does make for a striking experience to actually be able to see, for example, the rollercoaster at the Mall of America as Wallace and Lipsky talk about America’s obsession with entertainment while sitting in front of it. For those who haven’t read the book, the movie offers tons of insights and a level of conversation that’s always rare—and is perhaps even more rare now that Wallace is gone. Whether or not you’re ready to see someone from the Apatow crew play David Foster Wallace, the movie comes out July 31.