In 1996, Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky followed the late David Foster Wallace on the final part of a book tour to promote his breakthrough novel “Infinite Jest.” Here, director James Ponsoldt casts Jesse Eisenberg as Lipsky and Jason Segal as the mercurial, thirty-something Wallace to great effect. The repartee between these smart but very different men, with the American Midwest as a background, pumps verve into a potentially dry subject.
Wallace’s constantly churning mind helps: “I think being shy basically means being self-absorbed to the extent that it makes it difficult to be around other people.” But Lipsky and Wallace sizzle and spark. Though Lipsky openly envies Wallace’s success — “He wants more than he has. I want precisely what he already has…” — the journalist and the writer build a tenuous friendship over the omnipresent tape recorder.
Wallace’s mid-1990s vision is alarmingly prescient, as if to reinforce his legacy as one of America’s best turn-of-the-millennium writers. “As the Internet grows in the next 10, 15 years… and virtual reality pornography becomes a reality, we’re gonna have to develop some real machinery inside our guts… to turn off pure, unalloyed pleasure. Or, I don’t know about you, I’m gonna have to leave the planet. ‘Cause the technology is just gonna get better and better. And it’s gonna get easier and easier… and more and more convenient and more and more pleasurable… to sit alone with images on a screen… given to us by people who do not love us but want our money.” Wallace left the planet in 2008, by his own hand.