Why Stop Now

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Why Stop Now Movie Poster Image
Young man's very bad day includes drugs, swearing, more.
  • R
  • 2012
  • 87 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Eli is doing his best to keep his family together, despite the daily dramas of his mom, a drug addict, and his younger sister, who's got some emotional issues. He wants to check Mom into rehab and reclaim his life, if he can just get through one very bad day and make it to an important audition. He must walk a fine line between taking care of others while not neglecting his own needs.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Eli is a dutiful son who wants to care for his mom but is trying not to lose his own identity while possibly sacrificing his future to keep his family together. Penny, on the other hand, is the height of narcissism as a drug-addicted mom who creates conflict and drama all around her while believing she's doing what's right and refusing to recognize that she's the source of all the problems. Together, they make up a dysfunctional family, but only Eli recognizes that it's broken and needs to be fixed.


Several heated arguments, sometimes involving pushing and shoving, and one scene featuring faux gunshots during a Revolutionary War re-enactment.


Some mild flirting.


Frequent swearing, including "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "bitch," "butt," and more. Almost every conversation includes blue language.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One of the main characters is a drug dealer, and the main plot drivers are putting together a large drug buy and helping a character get high. Another character gets bombed on Oxycodone and blows an important audition. Some people smoke cigarettes. College-age kids get wasted at a keg party. Other people drink tequila shots at a bar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Why Stop Now is an indie dramedy about one very bad day in the life of a young man (Jesse Eisenberg) trying to make it to an important audition. His plans are disrupted when his drug-addict mother drags him into a series of misadventures involving drug dealers, Revolutionary War reenactments (complete with faux gunshots), sibling disputes, and more. Expect frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," etc.), a fair bit of drinking, and lots of drug references.

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What's the story?

Eli (Jesse Eisenberg) is a piano prodigy whose dreams of attending college were derailed by his mother's drug problem. Now he's lined up a big audition for a prestigious music conservatory that could help him reclaim his life, but first he's got to take his mom (Melissa Leo) to rehab. Unfortunately there's a snag when she checks in, and then there's another complication, and then another, and soon Eli's having the worst day ever, involving a drug dealer (Tracy Morgan), a mishap with narcotics, a hand injury, and a group of Revolutionary War reenactors. With this string of disasters, it's not clear whether he'll make it to the audition, or whether he'll even be able to play when he gets there.

Is it any good?

WHY STOP NOW is like a soufflé: The ingredients are tasty, the concept lofty. But as with many soufflés -- as any ambitious baker can attest to -- execution is crucial, and this one sadly falls flat. The central problem isn't the cast; the stars are all in fine form. Morgan, for starters, shows more depth than he's usually entrusted with. (One particular scene at a high school reminds the audience that he has a backstory, and it's worth knowing.) As Eli's mother, Leo is a complicated train wreck, and Eisenberg is perfectly twitchy and uncomfortable; we feel genuine sympathy for his Eli as the conflagrations that require his tending pile up.

Nonetheless, the pile-ups strain credibility, not only because they're colossal but there are just so many -- too many -- of them. And try as the filmmakers might to imbue the familial cost that addiction racks up with new insight, it's a difficult endeavor. The movie doesn't add anything to the conversation, as interesting its attempt may be.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Why Stop Now portrays addiction. How has Eli's mother's addiction affected his life? Do you think these are realistic consequences? How does the media typically portray drug addiction?

  • What about alcohol? How is drinking depicted here? Do you think Eli has a drinking problem?

  • Do you think this movie is more of a comedy or a drama? Who do you think it's intended to appeal to?

Movie details

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