IFC Films’ latest release, Why Stop Now is everything that makes indie flicks great. This debut film from co-directors Philip Dorling and Ryan Nyswaner is quirky and zany. At the same time, it has just enough heart to make it endearing and memorable among fans of the indie movie world. The heart of the story comes in form of Eli Bloom’s (Jesse Eisenberg—The Social Network) attempt to break away from his own family’s dysfunctional world as he has been given the chance to audition for a major music conservatory in Boston, which would allow him to escape from said dysfunction. At the same time that he’s trying to escape from that world, it is obvious that he has his own flaws, too. But it’s that imperfection that makes Eli such a sympathetic character. Ironically enough, one also can’t help but root for Eli’s mom, Penny (Melissa Leo—The Fighter). Yes, Penny’s a drug addict, but she shows that she is trying to do the best that she can as a mother to Eli and his sister. It’s Penny’s addiction that leads to everything that happens in this quirky yet heartfelt story. From meeting his mom’s drug dealer (and his drug dealer) to trying to make his audition all while having to pick up his sister and so much more, the whole story keeps “rolling” and will keep audiences just as entertained both in the story’s funny and more moving moments.
The concept of a young person trying to break away and start his or her own life is nothing new to the movie industry. But there is no denying that the manner in which this time honored story has been presented here is in itself quite original. To that extent, those critics who….well…criticized it for this originality are likely the same ones who refused to see the story’s balance of comedy and drama. Much of that balance comes from the rather dysfunctional relationship between Eli and Penny. And it’s also that balance that makes it the underrated indie flick that it is. The introduction later of Sprinkles (Tracy Morgan—30 Rock, SNL) adds even more comedy and drama to the already entertaining story. When he’s funny, he’s funny. But he also shows that he can be taken seriously as a dramatic actor thanks to this movie too when he talks to Eli about everything he’s given up. He tries to point out to Eli that he still has his life ahead of him and to not give up. It’s only a momentary dramatic moment. But even in that moment, Morgan shines as a dramatic actor. It shows that even he can bring his own amount of heart to a story. It would be interesting considering this, to see how he would do if he were to take a risk and branch out into more serious roles.
As funny and heartwarming as Morgan is throughout his time on camera, it’s the relationship between Eli and Penny that really gives Why Stop Now the heart and laughs that viewers will appreciate and enjoy most of all. It’s obvious that Eli cares about Penny being his mother. But he also sees that she seriously needs help. Ironically enough, he needs his own help. And even Penny points that out late in the movie in a conflict between the two. Penny yells at Eli, pointing out his issues with alcohol. But the thing of it is that it seems hinted that Eli’s problem with alcohol is a result of having to deal with his mother and sister. Despite that, audiences are left with a warm feeling as Eli and his mother finally come to terms with everything and with each other by the story’s finale. They are left knowing that the pair will be just fine, as will his sister.
Perhaps the main reason that the relationship between Eli and his mother works is the chemistry between Eisenberg and Leo. Audiences will note in the movie’s “behind-the-scenes featurette how much the cast enjoyed working together. While the movie doesn’t necessarily need bonus features to make it any better, viewers will enjoy hearing the cast’s take on their parts and on the story as a whole. There is no commentary directly connected to the main feature. But again, as enjoyable and original as the story is, it doesn’t really need that either, to make the overall viewing experience any better. The story itself is really all audiences need in this movie. It is simply put, a story that anyone looking for an original script will enjoy. It is available now in stores and online on DVD and Blu-ray.
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