THE END OF THE TOUR Review
Director: James Ponsoldt
Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel utilize their time in THE END OF THE TOUR to truly shine for their audience. Although Eisenberg has long been considered among the Hollywood A-list as a strong dramatic actor for roles with biting wit and a cocky, ignorant bravado, Jason Segel hasn’t really ever stepped out of his comfort zone as a comedic actor before. Thus, it’s undeniable that most of the critical acclaim is heading straight towards everyone’s favorite club-Apatow member. THE END OF THE TOUR is more than just a Jason Segel awards grab, but can’t quite manage to be cinematic gold, because as with a lot of contemporary independent cinema, THE END OF THE TOUR represents yet another fantastic screenplay that boasts incredible performances, only to be damaged by lazy visual execution.
Jason Segel’s portrayal of David Foster Wallace has generated the most buzz
The vast majority of independent films fall just short of being visually compelling, often forgetting that they’re films. This isn’t necessarily a heavy criticism since there are plenty of great films that probably should have just been theatre productions. However, it is brutally frustrating when a film like THE END OF THE TOUR comes out, because in the editing room, clear uses of narrative shorthand help the film rise just above the crop, but its visual execution could have allowed for so much more exciting experimentation, as the fantastic screenplay absolutely allows for it.
The film rides off of the bizarre, humorous, and mostly uncomfortable interactions between Eisenberg and Segel, culminating in some scenes that allow for some goofy blocking and camera composition. The most apparent example is when the two leads meet for the first time, and have to bypass each other in waist-high snow all whilst navigating between Segel’s two Labradors. The film is written in such a way to regularly place its protagonists in awkward situations, varying from being squished together when they least want it, to being in a loud shopping center while trying to hold a conversation. But what’s unfortunate is that the camerawork never capitalizes on these scenarios. It merely point and shoots the dialogue between Eisenberg and Segel in a disappointingly lazy shakycam.
One of the innumerable “sitting and talking” segments
Segel’s spectacular performance aside, it should be noted that Eisenberg has really cemented himself as a high caliber actor for the 21st century. Although Segel has the fun monologues and peculiar character to make for an award winning performance, Eisenberg is sublime in how subtly he uses his uncomfortable laugh and short facial expressions to help the audience understand his feelings of envy, discomfort and annoyance. There’s something any viewer can easily relate to in the way Eisenberg acts, and it is pulled off with such effortlessness that his performance melts away into the screen, arguably making him the best aspect of the entire film.
Capturing the Midwest almost as brilliantly as Alexander Payne did with NEBRASKA, and analyzing the careers of authors and journalists with an incredibly sharp eye, THE END OF THE TOUR represents a fantastic meditation on fame, success, and idolization without ever coming across as preachy Oscar bait. It’s fantastic to see a Sundance film that tells such a unique story, and as Segel says in a sequence where he gives a classroom lecture, it’s best not to tell another “campus-romance”. Overall, it feels like a refreshing change of pace for the films that come out of this festival circuit, and thanks to two fantastic performances, THE END OF THE TOUR is surely worth a watch. However, because it seems to forget the importance of strong camerawork, one would be hard pressed to say that the film will hold any weight by the time 2015 comes to an end.
This review originally appeared here.