The movie starts in 2008, when journalist David Lipsky learns that novelist David Foster Wallace has committed suicide. Shocked and disturbed by the news, he goes to his room, to listen to the tapes he recorded, when he interviewed Wallace twelve years earlier. Melancholic and visibly sad, he remembers those days he spent with the now deceased writer. Suddenly, the movie goes back to 1996, when Lipsky is giving a reading of his most recent book, to a small and indifferent crowd in a bookstore. When he learns the good critics and excellent reviews about a book recently published, titled Infinite Jest, an encyclopedic novel by David Foster Wallace – a writer acclaimed all over the country –, he gets cynic, doubting that a literary work could be that good. When he reads the novel, he becomes astonished, and persuades his editor at Rolling Stone magazine to do an interview about Wallace, America’s most promising contemporary writer. When his editor agrees, Lipsky travels to the residence of Wallace, in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, to do the interview.
In the next days, Lipsky accompanies Wallace in everything he does: from his ordinary activities at the Illinois State University, where Wallace teaches creative writing, to book readings, radio interviews and also recreational time, the two spend a lot of time together. Always recording their conversations, both find one another intriguing, and slowly, they develop a mutual understanding about each other, their respective roles as researcher and subject, and the greater goals of life. Clashing sometimes over differences of personality and character, in the end of the journey, they promise to stay in touch, and a friendship begins to develop.
It’s not an intriguing movie. The wonderful acting of its two lead actors, rather than a great persuasive and intelligent plot, is what leads the entire story. It is interesting more as a way to understand Wallace’s sometimes incomprehensible persona, to have a good insight about his personal issues, and also as an historic moment of American literature. But as a movie per se, it has very little merits. You can fall asleep anytime in the movie, if the main subject doesn’t appeal to you. Although not exactly a boring movie, it gets close to that, all the way through.
In the end, it is a regularly decent movie, but it is incapable of going beyond that. Two stars and a half are the best score I can give to this one.