By Richard Haridy
February 19, 2014
Comedy and drama are two elements notoriously hard to successfully blend. Why Stop Now is a classic example of a film that fails to find a cohesive tone, jarringly bouncing between comedy and drama as it rushes towards a disappointingly insincere “happy” ending.
Jesse Eisenberg plays Eli, a piano prodigy with a drinking problem who has several hurdles to overcome before the most important audition of his life. First Eli needs to get his drug addicted mother Penny (Melissa Leo) to rehab. When the rehab facility won’t accept Penny because, ironically, she doesn’t have drugs in her system, the two set out to get her high. Here they cross drug dealer Sprinkles (Tracy Morgan) and Eli’s day gets more and more complicated.
Why Stop Now begins promisingly enough in an engagingly naturalistic mode, but the picture quickly skids into confusion when Morgan enters the show. He certainly brings an entertaining spark to the feature, and surprisingly shows some competent dramatic chops, however, his presence only compounds the lack of tonal cohesion.
Debut writer/director Phil Dorling (teaming up with experienced mentor Ron Nyswaner) never manages to turn Why Stop Now into anything more than a series of discordant episodes. Dorling and Nyswaner seem to understand the signifiers that make a movie rich and touching, yet don’t know how to effectively deploy them, leaving the whole experience feeling empty and contrived.
The commitment of all the skilled performers are the only saving grace, with the always fantastic Leo creating a fully formed character out of one-dimensional ideas and Morgan bringing unexpected gravitas to what initially appears to be a comedic sketch. Even Eisenberg, whose performances tend to drift into irritating affectations, offers up several moments of twitchy anger unlike anything we’ve seen from him before.
Why Stop Now doesn’t outstay its welcome and is always oddly compelling. Ultimately though, it descends into a series of mawkish, over-melodramatic scenes that are entirely unearned and often unpleasantly noisy. It’s never especially funny or dramatic and leaves the viewer feeling unsure of what the filmmakers were really trying to achieve.
Why Stop Now is now available on Quickflix.