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Why Stop Now?

2012 | 87 min | Not rated | 2.39:1

Why Stop Now?


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Theatrical release date

 17 August, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

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Why Stop Now? Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, July 13, 2012

“Why Stop Now?” is a film that should snowball into greatness, working with a talented cast and a plot that’s amenable to a madcap approach. Unfortunately, writer/directors Phil Dorling and Ron Nyswaner are more interested in fashioning a pedestrian dramedy, trying to bring real pathos to a paper-thin concept, believing a little time with characterizations might help to season the comedic elements. “Why Stop Now?” isn’t very funny or poignant, drifting somewhere in between while the actors make the best out of a lackluster storytelling situation.

Eli (Jesse Eisenberg) is about to perform a critical piano audition for a highly regarded music school, launching the nervous young man’s career. However, before his big break occurs, Eli must take his younger sister, Nicole (Emma Rayne Lyle), to school, and his mother, Penny (Melissa Leo), to rehab. Hoping his parent receives the care she needs after years of neglect, Eli is shocked to find Penny rejected from the program due to a clean urine sample, with the staff suggesting the addict go out and get high before returning to test again. Looking to score a little coke, Eli meets up with Penny’s former dealers, Sprinkles (Tracy Morgan) and Black (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), only to get sucked up in the pushers’ dealings with a Mexican supplier, requiring the future pianist’s command of Spanish to complete. Dragging around town with this motley crew, Eli also tends to matters of the heart, sharing his feelings with crush Chloe (a charming Sarah Ramos), who’s unable to process the profession of love due to her participation in a Revolutionary War reenactment.

“Why Stop Now?” is a straightforward picture, resembling something shot quickly while the talent was between other, larger projects. It almost has an unfinished quality about it that keeps it unsatisfying, doing little with the farcical potential of the premise, with its limited turns of fate and quirky supporting characters. Outside of the Revolutionary War subplot, where Eli’s town is overrun with reenactors taking their roles a little too seriously, there’s nothing to the screenplay that triggers the senses. Instead, Dorling and Nyswaner keep focus on the frazzled characters, dreaming up modest idiosyncrasies for the group as they come together to form a team of addicts and dealers working for their next big score. Again, the promise for manic behavior is right there for the taking, but the production just doesn’t show any interest.

Attempting to subvert the norm, the filmmakers spotlight the frayed intimacy between Eli and Penny, a mother and son who’ve lost touch over the years as the parent indulged in chemical excess to deal with her troubles. The addiction gene has been passed down to Eli, who drinks heavily to cope with his problems, making his role as the responsible one of the family dubious at best. It’s an intriguing starting point for future tensions, but it doesn’t build to anything of note, finding many of the scenes shared between the characters watered down by tepid dialogue and slack timing. The rehab debate is potentially enlightening (the entire retesting quest is eye-opening), yet doesn’t carry far enough, used only to bookend the picture.

Work from Leo and Eisenberg is dutifully itchy, with the “Social Network” star falling back on habitual performance tics to generate the steam of a young man facing a nerve-wracking audition while keeping his family together. Supporting turns from Whitlock Jr. and Morgan bring a muted sense of humor, with the dealers used here to escalate the situation, not to add a generous helping of laughs. Although a commendable career choice, it’s like staring at a visiting alien from Mars to see Morgan in a semi-dramatic role.

“Why Stop Now?” contains a few moments that satisfy, especially anything that adds to Eli’s torment as the piano test draws near. Unfortunately, the film feels bloodless, with needless widescreen framing and a sentimental finale reinforcing a paralysis about the material that’s deflating to see unfold.

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Melissa Leo, Tracy Morgan, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., Paul Calderon
Directors: Phil Dorling, Ron Nyswaner

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