A Supposedly Fun Film

August 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

I don’t know if I’ll get around to seeing The End of the Tour before it leaves theaters, but after reading Rebecca Mead’s article on the The New Yorker’s web site, “How ‘The End of the Tour’ Nails an Entire Profession,” I really want to.

The film is not a standard biopic, but a look at the evolving relationship between a journalist and his subject:

What “The End of the Tour” dramatizes—why it will be added to journalism professors’ curricula—is the seduction phase of the profile-writing process. It shows what a complicated encounter that can be, when the reporter’s effort to get inside the mind and heart of his subject is professionally motivated but also personally charged. We see the skill with which Lipsky engineers Wallace’s revelations: he waits until they are strapped into adjacent airplane seats before bringing up the fact that, as a graduate student at Harvard, Wallace was committed to McLean, the psychiatric hospital—a nice cinematic representation of journalistic cunning. But he is also seen singing along to the car radio in what is represented as a genuine sense of joy in Wallace’s company. Of course, you end up becoming yourself, even when you’re a journalist.

Wallace is not my favorite writer; he is witty and entertaining, but his outsized projects seem to fall just beyond my purview. That he was chosen for the subject of a movie (not based on David Lipsky’s biography, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, but about the making of that book) shows how he is sadly lumped into the category of writers admired for their personas as much as if not more than their opera. I read Infinite Jest a number of years ago, and what I remember of its tripartite narrative is caring more about the tennis academy thread than the psychologist thread or the Quebecois separatist thread. His essays fascinate me more, particularly those in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, though in their quests to view Middle American traditions like state fairs and luxury cruises through the lens of irony, they feel like very old jokes.


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