“At Any Price”, a film by director Ramin Bahrani, focuses on the trials and tribulations of a corn farmer and his family. You would think that the father-son pair of Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron would offer redemption for at least some of the shortcomings in the script and plot, but unfortunately much like the family’s fields, “At Any Price” fails to make much of anything grow.
Starts Slow, Continues Slow
The first part of the movie introduces Quaid and Efron’s characters, setting up the father and son as opposing forces. While the beginning may do a good job of setting up the characters’ respective lives, the chemistry between them is not exactly tangible. I expected a much more interesting dynamic between Quaid and Efron, but there is a certain spark missing between the two. The woman playing the wife of Quaid’s character also fails to add much to the movie. She’s almost admirable when she learns that her husband has been cheating on her and addresses the issue straight on; but ultimately she only tells him what he’s done wrong, that she loves him and then proceeds to walk out of the room. That’ll teach him.
I think the most interesting part of “At Any Price” may have actually been the scenes that addressed issues of crop production. It was at least slightly enlightening to consider the processes that some farmers have to go through to have a successful year. A context relating to real-life North American farmers might have been helpful to provide a better basis for the sticky situations that Quaid finds himself in.
The main event of the film happens about 10 minutes from the end. Quaid’s character finds himself covering up a mess that Efron’s character makes in an unfortunate hormone-filled romp. The incident itself seems like a “we need something big to happen now” moment and the climax and brief falling action do not provide catharsis for the viewer or even provide any kind of clear revelation. Instead, the inciting incident leaves the viewer with an uncomfortable, incomplete, muddled feeling that makes them want to leave the theatre as fast as possible.
I suppose if nothing else “At Any Price” has a couple of hearty affairs. Also, Zac Efron driving fast cars and sufficient fight scenes to earn the title of the movie. The problem is that all of these hormones don’t lead anywhere. I went away from the film wondering what I was supposed to take from it and all I came up with was the fact that farming is an intense industry and it’s not as simple as it seems. Other than that I’m left with a commentary on how blood is thicker than water and that if one stays true to family, ethics are irrelevant.
To conclude, “At Any Price” leaves you wondering what opportunity’s the movie cost you as you spent two hours watching it. This is definitely not a movie you need to watch more than once. The cast is an interesting mix, Heather Graham’s character being a welcome addition- even if she isn’t a model of morality. Efron and Quaid do well enough in the roles they are given but there is no biting humour, cleverness or even respectability in either of them. In this way, “At Any Price” ends up being a kind of anti-hero movie, and that’s a heavy load to carry while eating popcorn in the dark.
My Rating: 3/10