The first trailer for Sundance favorite, The End of the Tour, directed by James Ponsoldt and starring Jason Segel as the late David Foster Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg as his erstwhile biographer (actually he’s a writer for Rolling Stone), has just been dropped by A24.
Let me start by reiterating that I am not a huge fan of Jesse Eisenberg. Anything past Zombieland, when I wasn’t all that familiar with him, including The Social Network and Now You See Me, all I ever see is Jesse Eisenberg. While it might be difficult for the actor to portray himself onscreen, and that might account for the kudos usually showered upon his performances, I never see a “character”. I never forget who I’m watching.
That out of the way, let me just say that I’ve been a Jason Segel fan since “Freaks and Geeks”. While I still mourn that show’s untimely demise (yes, fifteen years later), I take comfort in the fact that nearly every member of the cast has gone on to bigger and better things. Many of whom are even household names. (Poor Samm Levine. Quentin Tarantino put him in Inglourious Basterds, but I don’t think I’ve seen him since. Apparently, he’s done a lot of television *shrug*.)
These days Segel is probably best known for seven seasons of “How I Met Your Mother”, as well as comedic turns in Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You Man (all having at least a little something to do with Judd Apatow) and The Muppets.
Stretching toward “dramedy” in 2011, Segel did Jeff Who Lives at Home for the Duplass brothers. (It costars Ed Helms, Judy Greer and Susan Sarandon. It’s on Netflix. See it, if you haven’t) He co-wrote, co-produced (along with Apatow, among others) and starred in 2012’s The Five Year Engagement, with Emily Blunt. The cast also included Chris Pratt, Alison Brie and Jacki Weaver, and by all rights should have done better at the box office. The film’s release was delayed a number of times for various reasons, but I have to believe that not knowing which box it fit into and therefore the ability to sell it, is chief among them.
My point is that it’s not really a surprise that Segel is venturing into more serious territory. His contemporaries, most of which are also in the “Apatow Reperatory Company”, have certainly paved the way. (Sitting in the dark watching Superbad, who in their right mind would ever have predicted that Jonah Hill would now be known as a “two-time Academy Award nominee”? Insanity!)
Those who have already seen The End of the Tour, primarily at Sundance, have already put his name together with the phrase, “Best Actor contender”. Take a look:
While the movie is not about his death, knowing that Wallace committed suicide in 2008 makes all of this all the more poignant.
THE END OF THE TOUR tells the story of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter (and novelist) David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), which took place right after the 1996 publication of Wallace’s groundbreaking epic novel, Infinite Jest. As the days go on, a tenuous yet intense relationship seems to develop between journalist and subject. The two men bob and weave around each other, sharing laughs and also possibly revealing hidden frailties – but it’s never clear how truthful they are being with each other. Ironically, the interview was never published, and five days of audio tapes were packed away in Lipsky’s closet. The two men did not meet again. The film is based on Lipsky’s critically acclaimed memoir about this unforgettable encounter, written following Wallace’s 2008 suicide. Both Segel and Eisenberg reveal great depths of emotion in their performances and the film is directed with humor and tenderness by Sundance vet James Ponsoldt from Pulitzer- Prize winner Donald Margulies’ insightful and heartbreaking screenplay.
The End of the Tour is director James Ponsoldt’s fourth feature film and is being hailed as his best to date.(I admit that while I loved Smashed from 2012, which showed Aaron Paul was much more than Jesse Pinkman, I have yet to see 2013’s, The Spectacular Now [which launched Miles Teller], or his first film, Off the Black, from 2006.) It’s been playing film festivals non-stop since January. (Including the Boston Independent Film Festival in April. Sadly, I missed it.)
The cast also includes Anna Chlumsky, Mamie Gummer, Ron Livingston, Mickey Sumner and Joan Cusack. The film will get a (limited) release in the US on July 31. We can hope that also means a VoD release of some sort as well.