This ia a movie about writers, writers interviewing writers about the larger meanings and themes of their lives. So this was a natural fit for critical acclaim and raving reviews from the Literati.
“There’s gotta be some interplay between how difficult you make it for the reader and how seductive it is, so the reader’s willing to do it.”
-David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace wrote Infinite Jest, which I have not read. I did click over to the Amazon preview to get a sense of the style. It is very, very dense. It takes paragraphs to describe the most minor observation. This reminded me of Gravity’s Rainbow, which I also rejected as too dense to possibly be a pleasant experience. It’s not my thing.
There are two extreme styles, the minimalists and the maximalists. Coming from movies and screenplays, I am absolutely bivouacked in the minimalist camp. I like actions to tell the story, not endless bogged-down description.
Wading into Infinite Jest, I had the suffocating feeling that the author’s tortured mind would assault me endlessly, for 1,079 arduous pages. The length of the tome is repeatedly mentioned in the film. It is an anomaly, and its eccentric form launched Wallace up and into the mainstream back in the nid 1990s.
The film is mostly verbal, and it reminded me a bit of My Dinner with Andre. The dialogue carries the story rather than the imagery or action.
The Wallace performance in the movie shows the author as a tangled contradiction. He goes out of his way to appear regular, lower class, rough around the edges. This is a mask to conceal the simmering brain within.
“I would have a very difficult time writing something that’s product, that other people would mess with.”
-David Foster Wallace on screenplays
This dichotomy between the dense writing and the commoner is a main component of the story. David Lipsky interviewed Wallace for Rolling Stone, and he attempted to get a better understanding of the mad genius. But watching the actual Wallace gives me the sense that the movie may have shortchanged him. Jason Segel’s performance was much more tight lipped. The real Wallace was a firehose of ponderings and observations.
“If it’s authentic and true you can feel it in your nerve endings.”
-David Foster Wallace on Blue Velvet
Seeing Wallace on Charlie Rose I have more appreciation for him. Jason Segel did a pretty good job of trying to capture him, but the script may not have been as intense and suspenseful as could be. It wasn’t as verbose as the real Wallace likely was either. It’s a truncated version, which is the way movies are, always. This jumping of mediums–voice to book to movie–no doubt left quite a bit out in the edits. I’d give it three out of four stars, not a homerun. It is a provocative introduction to Wallace and his particular brand of crazy-genius.
For the record I’ve never liked Jesse Eisenberg, at all.