Needed to think about this for a few days to separate my feelings on the subject and merits of this movie. There’s no question the screenplay is fine and the two leads give award-worthy performances. But it is so hard watching DFW allow Lipsky/Rolling Stone into his already fragile life. Lipsky as portrayed here appears to be some kind of combination of weasel and vulture who only too late gets into touch with his feelings about DFW.
DFW comes across as an unkempt, neurotic, slightly paranoic man who can’t resist engaging in locker room talk with this equally insecure journalist through which I guess, they assure one another of their heterosexuality/masculinity which is in doubt I guess because they are intellectuals? There isn’t much insight provided here. DFW famously talks about addiction to television but his addiction to sugar is in full force as we watch he and Lipsky binge on candy from the convenience story in several scenes.
Sorry spoiler alert: The big reveal in the end is Lipsky (pressured by his editor) finding the callousness to ask DFW about the rumors of heroin addiction at least in the past. DFW here doesn’t confirm or deny, but emphasizes his addiction to tv and how that’s not paid attention to because it’s not as glamorous. Lipsky does nothing with this information.
I have so much to say about DFW and Infinite Jest but it’s hard to stay focused on just a few things, I guess. I stumbled across Infinite Jest in a discount bookstore (leftovers) several years after it came out in 1996. I read the novel and marveled at it. It is amazing and worthy of praise. But, as DFW himself said it wasn’t the second coming of Joyce or Fitzgerald. It is a work about popular culture and is therefore limited by its subject matter, I believe.
The hype that grew up around the novel was not good for anyone, except the publishers, who had a bestseller on their hands. DFW suffered from depression his whole life and was too fragile, sincere and ultimately well-meaning to survive the fame monster. I believe it literally ate him from outside to inside. This is a worthwhile film, worth seeing for a sort of summary of DFW’s themes and concerns but if you are interested, I direct you to his work in print and to the talks and interviews available on YouTube. He describes the term GenX as just a way to slap a label for demographic and marketing purposes on a group of people who are lost and alone. He is so right.