At Any Price
By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Indie drama's messages undercut by weak story, racy content.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie deals with serious social, political, and economic issues related to farming and is sympathetic to corn farmers who must use genetically modified seeds. Characters engage in backhanded behavior to make money but eventually learn to do the right thing. Some problematic behavior, however, goes unpunished.
Positive Role Models
The main character is a fast-talking, phony salesman type who takes part in shady and illegal activities. He tries to correct some of his bad behavior -- but not all of it, and only when it suits him. His son is a petulant, arrogant brat who, likewise, does something terrible and suffers no consequences for it.
Violence & Scariness
Two characters fight in more than one instance. During one fight, one combatant bashes the other in the head with a hammer, resulting in his death. There's a race and a car crash. A gun is introduced early in the movie but is only used to shatter the front window of a shop. Characters argue frequently.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
In one scene, a character looks at a porn magazine; viewers see photos of naked breasts and a photo of a woman holding an erect penis. Henry is cheating on his wife with an old high school girlfriend. This same woman later seduces Dean, sleeping with both men during the course of the movie. Dean also has a seduction/foreplay scene with his own girlfriend. None of these three scenes show any nudity (the characters are more or less fully clothed).
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"F--k" is used about a dozen times. "S--t" is also used a few times, and "bitch," "goddamn," "for God's sakes," "p---y," "a--hole," and "whore" are heard once each.
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Products & Purchases
Butterfinger candy bars are shown and mentioned by name in a couple of shots.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Both Henry and Dean, as well as their mutual lover, are shown drinking beer, vodka, and whisky at various times. They're shown a little tipsy/stumbling drunk, but with no real lasting effects.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that At Any Price -- an indie drama about a family of corn farmers in Illinois -- raises some serious social, political, and economic issues but loses traction due to a weak story and characters who aren't exactly admirable. Sexual content is a big issue, as the two main characters -- a father and son -- have sex with the same woman (the father is cheating on his wife with her, and the son is cheating on his girlfriend with her). The sex scenes don't actually have any nudity, but a graphic porn magazine is shown for a few seconds in another scene. Language is fairly strong, with several uses of "f--k" and "s--t," as well as other words. There are a couple of violent fights, one of which results in a death by hammer blow. A gun is fired, but only at a store window. All the main characters drink alcohol from time to time, with no lasting effects.
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Where to Watch
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What's the Story?
The Whipple family has been in the corn business for generations. Henry (Dennis Quaid) tries to run his farm with all the modern conveniences, as well as making money by selling genetically manufactured seeds for a big corporation. Problems arise when Henry's oldest son refuses to come home from his globetrotting adventures and his arrogant, petulant younger son, Dean (Zac Efron), only wants to race cars. Meanwhile, Henry is under investigation for re-using seeds and is also losing business to a competitor (Clancy Brown). Oddly, Henry's illicit lover (Heather Graham) decides to seduce Dean. Things get even worse when Dean gets into a fight, with disastrous results. Can the Whipple family save the farm and get things back on track again?
Is It Any Good?
Writer/director Ramin Bahrani made three acclaimed, character-based independent movies (Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, and the lovely Goodbye Solo); it's baffling that this one's so shallow and clumsy. It seems to want to say something about the plight of corn farmers in America today, and it imparts its information clearly -- but apparently at the expense of everything else.
The actors seem to have been asked to give very clipped, elevated performances, especially Quaid, whose character is a smarmy salesman. Efron, on the other hand, responds to every situation with his usual blank, dead-eyed stare. Several plot threads, especially one about racing cars, seem clumsily dropped, and a potentially interesting female teen character is likewise abandoned. Aside from its potential educational value around farming, At Any Price is just a mystifying waste of time.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the farming-related issues that At Any Price raises. According to the movie, what's better about modern farming, and what's worse? Can/should it be changed?
How do you feel about Henry and Dean after they sleep with the same woman? Why?
What's your impression of the characters at the end of the movie? What lessons have they learned? What lessons have they not learned? Are any of them role models?
- In theaters: April 24, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: August 27, 2013
- Cast: Dennis Quaid, Kim Dickens, Zac Efron
- Director: Ramin Bahrani
- Inclusion Information: Middle Eastern/North African directors
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content including a strong graphic image, and for language
- Last updated: February 22, 2023
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