2011 was a mixed year for Social Network and Zombieland alum Jesse Eisenberg, between the box office success of Rio and the lackluster critical/financial returns for 30 Minutes or Less. The Oscar-nominee is bouncing back this summer with two indie efforts: Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love (currently in limited release), and Why Stop Now, which is writing/directing duo Phil Dorling and Ron Nyswaner’s feature-length adaptation of their 2008 short film, “Predisposed.”
As you can see from the trailer, Why Stop Now once again finds Eisenberg in over his head and racing against time (similar to 30 Minutes or Less). This time around, though, the proceedings have a distinctly low-budget look; similarly, the film’s off-kilter blend of comedy and drama falls more in line with the standards of indie cinema (for better or worse).
Why Stop Now stars Eisenberg as Eli Smith, a piano prodigy whose audition for a prestigious music program is scheduled for the same day that his drug-addled but supportive mom, Penny (Oscar-winner Melissa Leo), enters rehab. Their volatile plan starts to unravel when a system glitch prevents Penny from being covered by her health insurance program. The son-mother duo take this setback in stride and are quick to hatch a hair-brained scheme: get Penny high, and thus force the clinic to admit her when she shows up intoxicated.
Eli meets with Penny’s drug-dealer, “Sprinkles” (Tracy Morgan) and his associate “Black” (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), in order to purchase the necessary illicit substance. A darkly-comical series of unfortunate events results in Eli and Penny having to spend the day working for Sprinkles, eventually forcing all concerned parties to “deal with their internal demons” over the course of the next 24 hours.
Eisenberg, Leo, Whitlock Jr., and Morgan in 'Why Stop Now'
Nyswaner is perhaps best known as the Oscar-nominated screenwriter behind such awards-friendly fare as Mrs. Soffel, Philadelphia, and Painted Veil. So, a plot-driven dramedy about dysfunctional people (like Why Stop Now) is somewhat untested territory for him; similarly, Dorling has never directed a feature-lenth film before. It’s for those reasons that reports about Why Stop Now being given an overall mixed early reception – after it screened out of competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival – are not so surprising.
Still, the theatrical promo for Why Stop Now has some chuckle-worthy moments, and manages to leave a decent impression (in this writer’s opinion, anyway). Moreover, Eisenberg, Leo (The Fighter), and Morgan (30 Rock) are each tackling a role that plays to their strengths; though, for that reason, it could be argued that all three are type-cast here. Nonetheless, it’ll be interesting to see what sort of screen chemistry the trio have.
Why Stop Now begins a limited theatrical release in the U.S. on August 17th, 2012.