Why Stop Now | Movie review
Jesse Eisenberg helps Melissa Leo kick the habit, eventually.
A baffling mixture of unbalanced farce and on-target emotion, Why Stop Now feels like the product of too many cooks, perhaps because directing credit is shared by newcomer Phil Dorling and veteran writer Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia), the latter stepping behind the camera for the first time in nearly a quarter-century. Melissa Leo, tamped down slightly from her scenery-chewing—and inevitably award-winning—turn in The Fighter, sinks her ham-clogged teeth into the role of Penny Bloom, a drug-addicted mother facing her first serious shot at rehab. But the movie is better served by Jesse Eisenberg, who finds broader range in the part of Penny’s son, Eli, a sporadic binge drinker who has nevertheless developed sufficient piano chops to have a shot at a conservatory scholarship. (The actor impressively tickles his own ivories.)
Unable to countenance leaving Mom with his little sister (Emma Rayne Lyle), who mostly communicates through a foul-mouthed sock puppet, Eli persuades Penny to check into an inpatient facility. But it can’t admit her unless she turns up high, which sends mother and son on a wacky adventure to procure just enough drugs to let her kick the habit. As a pair of drug-dealing brothers, Tracy Morgan and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (The Wire’s Clay Davis) play it close to the vest—a decision that renders the typically antic Morgan almost unrecognizable. But Leo is such a nonstop kook that it’s hard to remember she’s supposed to be at least temporarily sober.