At Any Price
What parents need to know
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.
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 has made three acclaimed, character-based independent movies (Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, and the lovely Goodbye Solo), so it's baffling that AT ANY PRICE is 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.
Families can talk 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?