Written By Donald Margulies
Directed By James Ponsoldt

I had never heard of this, and just happened across it on Netflix. After seeing that it starred Jason Segal and had very positive reviews, I quickly decided that was all I needed to hear. I can be a real sucker for movies with few characters and many lines of dialogue (I am, after all, a huge fan of Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy), and this didn’t let me down at all. Jesse Eisenberg isn’t always my cup of tea, but his squirrely personality works perfectly here as Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky, who sets out to interview author David Foster Wallace just after his critically-acclaimed novel Infinite Jest was released. David has just finished the book after some initial skepticism of all the praise it’s receiving, but comes away floored, wanting to meet the man who penned such a masterpiece. As such, his slightly awkward, shifty nervousness comes off naturally, as though he is meeting some longtime personal hero, despite only recently having heard of the man. Though I am unfamiliar with Wallace and therefore can’t speak to his portrayal on film as it relates to his real personality, Segal plays him with care and trepidation, giving a grand, thoughtful performance of a tortured artist. Though essentially a road trip dramedy about a conversation, it is oddly riveting, giving us a glimpse into the human condition, the nature of loneliness and the dangers of hero worship and putting people on pedestals. Lipsky wants what Wallace has and would easily give up, despite both having a mirrored love of creative writing. It’s fascinating to watch them ruminate philosophically, and the script from Donald Margulies never comes across as pretentious or being talky just for the sake of it. The words all mean something, and the acting conveys every bit of that meaning. The story has an interesting structure, opening with the news of Wallace’s 2008 suicide, sending Lipsky to find his old interview tapes to remember the five days they spent together. Traditionally, you would have gotten the bulk of the story before the sad ending, but presenting Wallace in this way allows you to avoid writing off his experience and shortening him down to his final act. Strangely. by opening with the logical conclusion to the story, you find yourself hoping that the tenuous friendship forged with Lipsky will help him through his hardships and that his fate can change. But, like the book that brought Wallace such fame, his story is set in stone and cannot be changed. All we have is the book, as well as the eyes and ears to look around us and take the world in, while we hope to give something positive back along the way. This is a quiet, ruminating film that speaks to the human experience in some raw and somber ways, relying on two people to carry the load. Thankfully, they are up to the task and turn in something great, albeit sad.