In Why Stop Now? a teenage piano prodigy (played by Jesse Eisenberg) tries to get his drug-addict mother checked into rehab before an afternoon audition for a music school. However, due to the quirks of the American healthcare system she cannot be admitted unless she has drugs in her system. So the both of them spend the day trying to buy drugs off Sparkles (played by Tracy Jordan) so she can get help to get clean.
This low-budget independent film is pretty much exactly the sort of film fans of Jesse Eisenberg would expect. It is bittersweet, quirky, funny and short, with a runtime of less than 90 minutes. He does his confused, awkward teenage shtick and he does it very well. His character’s mother (played by Melissa Leo) is very good, playing the damaged, but ultimately loving fuck-up mother whilst the abusive, sock-puppet obsessed little sister (played by Emma Rayne Lyle) suggests a child with some potential. Tracy Jordan is at his bombastic best, mixing broad humour with threats of intense violence and surprisingly can be seriously intimidating, whilst his right-hand man Black (played by Isiah Whitlock Jr.) is full of laughs.
It is a difficult topic for comedy and it would seem to be a much more natural story to be told in a dramatic light, yet it somehow works. Despite all the quirks (which include evil sock puppets and a Civil War re-enactment) it feels appropriate and they fit into the main story somewhat naturally. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments and a few of genuine sentimentality.
Thematically, it is well balanced without seeming hackneyed. The ideas of wasted potential and former glory, the damage of drug abuse on family members are all woven into the story without it feeling bloated or over-stretched.
There is nothing particularly groundbreaking here, but then it doesn’t try for that. What it does try to do is get some laughs out of a serious topic whilst maintaining the emotional depth of the situation. This it does well. It is a very funny film, with it’s heart in the right place.