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At Any Price

Movie Details

At Any Price
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Date: 2013-04-24 NY/LA
  • Running Time: 105 min.
  • Director: Ramin Bahrani
  • Cast: Zac Efron, Heather Graham, Dennis Quaid, Clancy Brown, Kim Dickens, Red West, Chelcie Ross, Maika Monroe, Sophie Curtis, John Hoogenakker
  • Producers: Ramin Bahrani, Pamela Koffler, Justin Nappi, Teddy Schwarzman, Kevin Turen
  • Writer: Ramin Bahrani
  • Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
  • Official Site: At Any Price Official Site

Writer-director Ramin Bahrani's At Any Price finds tension between rapacious capitalism and the idealized fiction of rural life in farming communities, especially as they engage in decidedly unpastoral, commodity-based feeding frenzies. Here it's not bad weather or greedy banks that places a large, third-generation family farm in jeopardy but the doughy, Penney’s-clad inspectors of an agricultural biotech corporation. Iowa farmer Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) has enlarged his farmstead by absorbing competitors; his deepest wish is to pass it to a son, but the youngest, Dean (Zac Efron), hates farming. The setting's austerity strips the generational drama down to the archetypal terms best articulated by James Van Der Beek in Varsity Blues: "Ah don't wahnt yore lahf." As the film begins, glad-handing Henry is pitching an offer for a dead man’s land to a bereaved family, right outside the cemetery gates, which gives you some idea of his footing, soul-proximity-wise. Quaid has a genius for broadcasting conflicting impulses. His body language twists uncomfortably away from his intentions, and his smile is built on the chassis of a cringe. Married to Irene (Treme's awesome Kim Dickens), whom he clearly loves, Whipple has tawdry office trysts with Heather Graham's go-nowhere character. The film, which compares Henry’s re-use of corporate seeds to DVD piracy, weighs patent infringement and adultery about equally. Therefore, according to the transitive property of moral transgressions, the exchange rate for spousal betrayal is 1:1 with ripping The Avengers. When Henry, facing dire legal consequences, invokes wistful memories of his simpler childhood, his dad smacks him down, casting the American dream as a modern, air-conditioned combine "that drives itself with GPS."

Chris Packham

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