Much like Goats, Why Stop Now manages breaking even my very high tolerance for unlikable characters, albeit to a much lesser extent. Eli becomes more likable as the film goes on, and there's also a sense that even if Eisenberg is not the wrong guy for the part, he is a casting choice that emphasizes the aspects of the character that are obnoxious, and in the most obnoxious way possible. Still, what is the audience supposed to make of Eli when he's introduced as an alcoholic, party-wrecking, impatient jerk who bosses his mother around (regardless of whatever addiction she might have). As Eisenebrg delivers his lines with trademark breathlessness and bite, it only widens the gap between Eli and sympathy for his situation.
On the other hand, at least Eli has a bit of a character -- reticent and impatient, but also intelligent, mostly good under pressure, and the glue holding his family together. Poor Melissa Leo is left hanging in the wind, grasping at anything she can to help flesh out her anemic role. Aside from a long-standing grudge against her richer, more successful sister, Penny is just "vaguely frazzled," and Leo is never quite able to narrow the characterization down. Penny's train wreck status throughout the entire movie feels odd whenever the viewer is reminded that this is what she's like when she's clean and sober, and although one might guess that someone who's exasperating off of drugs is even more of a pain when they're high, that's logic talking, not the movie.
When Eli and Penny get to Sprinkles' place, they learn he's out of drugs. Accompanied by Sprinkles' right-hand man Black (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), the four head to meet Eduardo (Paul Calderon), Sprinkles' distributor. Eli serves as translator, because Sprinkles doesn't speak Spanish (no explanation of how they do business when Eli is not there), and they're told to wait for Eduardo to call them back when he's ready, forcing Sprinkles and Black to hang around with Eli and Penny all day while they wait for the call. Morgan is actually arguably the highlight of the movie, investing his character with some emotional weight. Sprinkles was once a track star with dreams of bigger things than drug dealing; his reaction to seeing the team trophy he helped win but never got a chance to hold is actually kind of touching.
Why Stop Now builds to several explosions on Eli's behalf, the most crucial of them occurring at Penny's sister's place, in which Eli really lets loose on everyone in his family. Although the tone seems as if it's meant to be half comedic, every "shut the fuck up" in his extensive, bitter speech directed at his mother or his aunt is indicative of the movie's confused goals. Directing and writing team Philip Dorling and Ron Nyswaner fail to establish the movie in an environment where Eli's outburst could be viewed as funny, and don't seem interested in making a straight drama. It's a carnival of exasperation and frustration the the filmmakers peer in on, and from that distance, spending time with Eli and Penny on their road to reconciliation is not an appealing prospect. In retrospect, the title seems almost desperate.
The Video and Audio
Audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which surprisingly gets a fair amount of workout from the movie. Piano in performance halls, crowded restaurants, and the interiors of several homes have a nice evocative richness. A Civil War re-enactment also provides some surprise opportunity for gunfire and chaos. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and Spanish subtitles are also provided.
Trailers for Your Sister's Sister, Liberal Arts, Sleepwalk With Me, and About Cherry play before the main menu. An original theatrical trailer for Why Stop Now is also included.