The End of the Tour (2015)

endofthetour1My Dinner with Andre
was a film that was interesting in conception and not quite as engaging in practice — at least for me. The End of the Tour is another such conversation-driven story with a similar promise, but by some miracle, it really seems to pay off.

The narrative actually felt rather like a stripped down Lawrence of Arabia, because we first are introduced to our main person of interest, writer David Foster Wallace (Jason Segal), following news of his death. Then, with the aid of his numerous taped dialogues, Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) takes us back to the 1990s where he had a few days to interview the accomplished author. David and Dave spend a great deal of time together, and the author willingly and openly allows the other man into his life. It’s not some monumental epic, and in that way, it parts company with Lawrence of Arabia, but it is an intimate heart-to-heart.

Furthermore, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the man or not, because I, in all honesty, did not know him. Under Pondsoldt’s direction, however, the film is so universal — it does feel so personal — like you’re slowly getting to know Foster Wallace bit by bit as the layers come off. He speaks into so many issues of what it means to be human, though this is only a one time interaction between two men. The conversations at times become contentious and bitter as Lipsky tries to dig in more. And that’s perfectly alright.

Foster Wallace describes himself interestingly enough as a “combination of being incredibly shy and an egomaniac.” But in this paradox lies a lot of his personal insecurities as a successful writer. Truthfully, they also put the mirror up to all those listening in, because he’s not the only with anxiety, it’s just that he’s the one voicing it.

Jason Segal does a superb job of portraying someone with obviously unfathomable talent, while also being candidly vulnerable as time progresses. There’s an understated humor to this man that is somehow warm and disarming. Underneath there obviously dwells a woundedness that gives way to a plethora of issues which also consequently becomes topics of discussion. For instance, pornography, entertainment, television, depression, loneliness, fears, doubts, and a great deal more.

We return to the present as David listens to his final audio cassettes from so many years ago now. How do you try and paint a canvas of a person’s life with all the minutiae that are involved? The soda and foods they like. How they dress. The name of their pets. Where they live and so on. David delivers a beautifully evocative memo that he speaks into his recorder in order to try and capture that moment just as it is. That time and place, in some respect, feels like hallowed ground amidst a far off realm. Now, with Wallace gone it’s only a distant wisp of a memory. Therein lies the beauty of that conversation for not only Lipsky but the entire audience. That dialogue — that human interaction just as it happened — can never happen in the same way, but you can still take solace in the memories and the words that were said. David Lipsky looks back at that one time conversation with only fond thoughts.

The End of the Tour reminds us what real life can be like, and it reminds us that we are not alone — but surrounded by a wide expanse of humanity just waiting for someone to reach out and talk with them. It’s not a radical idea, but then again if David Foster Wallace, the preeminent author that he was, had such an impact with it, then maybe we can too.

4/5 Stars

“It may be what in the old days was called a spiritual crisis or whatever. It’s just the feeling as though the entire, every axiom of your life turned out to be false, and there was actually nothing, and you were nothing, and it was all a delusion. And that you were better than everyone else because you saw that it was a delusion, and yet you were worse because you couldn’t function.”~ Jason Segal as David Foster Wallace

Review: The Spectacular Now (2013)

Looking back a year later…

The moment Aimee Finicky appears onscreen is perhaps the most remarkable instant out of many great moments in this film. The light must have been exactly perfect and everything seems calm and serene. The only thing we focus on is the initial meeting between two individuals, and that’s all that matters. That anxious face obscured by the light. That voice tinged with worry and relief. As an audience, we have our first encounter with the girl that the same Sutter who is sprawled on the ground, will fall for over the course of the film. However, right now he can’t remember who she is. There could not have been a better meet cute.

Fast forward to the ending of The Spectacular Now. So much has taken place in a short span of 90 minutes, it’s hard to keep track of it all. Just like much of the high school experience. Aimee and Sutter have been on an emotional roller coaster which Sutter has succeeded in derailing, but he has a new resolve and he will not waste this opportunity in the now.

There she is walking down the steps of her new college. Pleasant looking as always, undoubtedly with thoughts of academia swirling around pushing her past memories into the back of her mind. Then, all of a sudden they’re all right in front of her again in the form of Sutter.

There is a look on her face that is almost indescribable and it seems apparent that words are about to form on her lips, and the film cuts away. It is absolutely maddening as an audience who has become so invested in the story of these two high schoolers.

For some reason, this final shot of Aimee reminds me of The Tramp’s final reaction in City Lights. It might be a stretch but in both situations, there is a tinge of hope, but there is still this uncomfortable feeling of the unknown. And yet if we had known the resolution both these films would have lost some of their allure and City Lights is Chaplin’s masterpiece. As of right now The Spectacular Now is a little blimp on the radar in 2013. Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller might change that with the rate they are going. They certainly do not have the weight of the one and only Charlie Chaplin, but I am sure both of them are destined for numerous other great performances.

4.5/5 Stars

The Spectacular Now (2013)

1ae0b-the_spectacular_now_filmFeaturing two rising stars in Miles Teller (Rabbit Hole) and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants), this film nicely melds a rough exterior with a heartfelt core to great effect.
Sutter (Teller) is a guy who parties hard, drinks incessantly, and has a long-term relationship with a beautiful girl named Cassidy (Brie Larson). He is the self-proclaimed life of the party and people like him, but no one takes him too seriously. At home, he lives with his mom, has no idea where his dad is, and hardly ever talks with his older sister. School, much less Geometry, is of little importance to him.
Matters take a turn for the worse when he and his girlfriend have a fight. He drives home plastered one night, only to wake up the next morning on a front lawn with a girl standing over him. And that is how he meets the quiet, studious, Aimee Finicky (Woodley). They strike up a friendship instantly as he helps her with a paper route, and she soon begins helping him with math. Although he convinces himself that he is doing it just because she is nice, he genuinely begins to like her. He invites her to a party and there their relationship deepens. It comes out that she is planning to stand up to her mom so she can go to university in Philadelphia. She wants Sutter to ask his mom about his estranged father. Together the two of them go to visit his dad, and Sutter is devastated to find out the truth about his father, which he never wanted to believe. On the drive home, half intoxicated by alcohol, half by his anguish, Sutter rejects Aimee’s love and tells her to leave, with dire consequences.

High school winds down and so does Sutter’s job. The night Aimee leaves for Philadelphia, however, he gets inebriated in a bar not wanting to hurt her anymore. He returns home in a stupor and confronts his mom, but he breaks down believing that he is exactly like his father. Despite all the annoyance that had been there before, she comforts him and proves Sutter otherwise.
Finally, Sutter is able to realize that his limitation is himself because even though he might veil his fears with jokes and alcohol, he has always been afraid. He takes another trip in his car, this time to Philadelphia to see Aimee again. The film ends on the steps of the university as their gazes meet and Aimee is just about to react. Who knows how it ends, but much like “Say Anything…” we can believe what we want. Needless to say, though he wasted so many of the previous “Nows,” Sutter seems destined to make the best of his tomorrow. 
This film is engrossing because although we have seen the story before no doubt, it is made fresh by the leads. A lot of people know someone like Sutter Keely. He is a person who is rough around the edges because of family, divorce, and alcohol. He often makes the stupidest of decisions. But there is still something about him that is likable and it creates empathy. Aimee on her part could be a real individual as well. She can be shy, but she is sweet and beautiful in her own unique way. However, because they are messy and have faults, it makes these two all the more believable. Neither of them can be labeled as a one-dimensional cliché because they have a genuine human quality. As Aimee would say they are not just defined by one thing, there’s more to them than that.

Some of the best moments in the film have to be when the two leads are talking with each other. It seems so real, even commonplace, the way they go through conversations. It is wonderful to watch. First, it begins awkwardly, builds into a friendship, and finally, evolves into a full-fledged relationship. These chats that they share not only cause them to grow closer, but it causes the audience to grow closer to them. I will admit I was in shock during the climax of the film, and I also dreaded the times Sutter drove home obviously drunk. That shows an actual attachment to the characters, something that is not always present in this type of film or any film for that matter. 
For a split instant I was disappointed that the film ended where it did, but then I quickly realized that’s how it had to be and it is better for it. Already I cannot wait for more from Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley especially. She is one of the most promising actresses of today along with Jennifer Lawrence. 
4.5/5 Stars