A couple of years ago I posted a rant about an egregious form of road-ignoring in James Ponsoldt‘s The Spectacular Now. For years I’ve been twitching in my seat during car-chat scenes in which a driver mainly looks at the person riding shotgun and only glances at the road sporadically. (Roughly five or six seconds of eye-contact for every one or two seconds of road-watching.) But Ponsoldt and Miles Teller doubled down on this in a Spectacular scene in which Teller, bold as brass, totally ignores the road for ten or twelve seconds as he chats with some girls in a car that’s cruising alongside. I almost threw my shoe at the screen.
Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel in James Ponsoldt’s The End of the Tour. Obviously not the scene I’m referring to the piece as Segel is behind the wheel.
And now Ponsoldt has crossed the line again in The End of The Tour. In a second act scene Jesse Eisenberg (playing Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky) is driving and talking to Jason Segel (as David Foster Wallace) and doing the usual “I don’t really need to look at the road…well, okay, I do every so often but c’mon…I’m actor and I need to make eye contact…this is what I do and I can’t just stare at the road and read lines.”
When these driving scenes are shot the car is being hauled by a truck with six or seven guys on it and with a camera and sound equipment mounted on the car hood, and so there’s nothing for Eisenberg-the-actor to look at or worry about driving-wise, but of course the reality of the scene is that his character is driving and he does have to watch the road. What is it about “you’re allowed to look at your passenger only at stop lights and stop signs” that you don’t understand, Eisenberg?
I was moaning and clenching my teeth last night in my fourth-row seat at the Aero. I was also telepathically muttering to Eisenberg, “We know that Ponsoldt is hopeless but did you know drivers in real life can have a very, very nurturing conversation with their passengers without actually looking at them? Because you can. Seriously. I’ve done it in dozens of times.”