The are two problems a script revolving around two people can run into. The first is that it’s a good script, but doesn’t work when committed to film (Passengers is a good example). Secondly, it’s that one or both of the actors aren’t that good. If the film runs into either, it is doomed.
The End of the Tour runs headlong into the second. The film is based on a five-day interview between David Lipsky, played by Jesse Eisenberg, and author David Foster Wallace, played by Jason Segel. Over the course of the film, the audience gets to see how the relationship between the two develops.
As Wallace, Segel dives into this role. He portrays Wallace as a guarded, if eccentric human being rather than the assured confidence that might be expected of a titan of literature. In the film, Wallace is just beginning to explode in popularity after the release of Infinite Jest and Segel nails the feeling that Wallace doesn’t really know what to do with himself now.
Segel completely outclasses Eisenberg here. Whereas Segel dived into his role as Wallace, Eisenberg is still recognizable as…Jesse Eisenberg. Not even that he doesn’t disappear into the role quite as much, Eisenberg doesn’t at all. It’s frustrating, really. It seems like Eisenberg isn’t even trying to act while Segel is trying to put on the best performance of his career. It’s jarring and in a film like this it destroys the entire enterprise.
That’s a shame. Segel’s performance is great, but it is wasted by Eisenberg seeming to phone it in as Lipsky. With another actor that put more effort into the role of Lipsky, it might have saved the movie.