The latest film to be released to VOD before a limited theatrical release from IFC Films, Why Stop Now is an interesting, energetic film, even if it’s not all that great, or even that funny. Don’t get me wrong, there are parts that made me crack a smile, and a few that even made me laugh (which were mostly Tracy Morgan doing his usual shtick) and Melissa Leo and Jesse Eisenberg both hold their own as the mother/son relationship at the center of the movie. Somehow, though, the film never manages to become anything more than a predictable riff on the funny/sad formula that films have been trying to make work since the release of Little Miss Sunshine.
Unfortunately, this film often fails to find the right notes, and instead of being actually absurd, it just comes off foolish, trying very hard to say something smart with cutesy antics and “contemporary” humor. The fact that Eisenberg and Leo take the roles so seriously, and that Tracy Morgan and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (from The Wire and Cedar Rapids) don’t take a word seriously creates a huge offset in the tone of the movie.
On one hand, the movie attempts to be a heartfelt piece about the ravages addiction can cause, and the measures family members will resort to in order to see their loved ones feel better, even at their own cost. Or the cost of each other. Each member of the family has their own issues to work through, but instead of being honest with themselves, they act out in different ways, but all for the same reason.
The production values are high, and at the very least, the story is sweet (even though it’s not particularly smart) and there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes of your life, but that said, this is yet another “smart dramady” that’s not all that smart, only mildly funny, and just overall safe. Writing/Directing team Phil Dorling and Ron Nyswaner (writer of such prestigious films as Philadelphia and The Painted Veil) made a short film called Predisposed with Melissa Leo playing the same character, and they got a feature made out of it. I’d be interested to see the short, because I felt there was a lot of wasted time, and the main plot (Eisenberg’s piano career) is only touched on when his character needs something to be passionate about, when it should have been the main focus of the film, not his oddball relationship with his mother.
For all intents and purposes, it’s not a bad film at all, and some will probably enjoy it a lot. However, people looking for something beyond the surface will ultimately be let down, unfortunately. If you’re a fan of any of the actors involved, and you expect them to do what has become their typical characterization, you won’t be disappointed. For those looking for a movie with something to say and more than a couple of laughs, you might want to wait for Netflix before you pay the $8 HD VOD price tag on your cable box.