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In the competitive world of modern agriculture, ambitious Henry Whipple wants his rebellious son Dean to help expand his family's farming empire. However, Dean has his sights set on becoming a professional race car driver. When a high-stakes investigation into their business is exposed, father and son are pushed into an unexpected crisis that threatens the family's entire livelihood. Written by
Sony Pictures Classics
'AT ANY PRICE': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)
Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron both give outstanding performances in this tragic drama about competitive farming directed and co-written (with first time writer Hallie Elizabeth Newton) by Ramin Bahrani. I haven't seen any of Bahrani's previous films but I know he's garnered a lot of critical praise and attention. Roger Ebert, in 2009, said "Ramin Bahrani is the new great American director". He also praised this movie as "a great film" as well but it hasn't been loved by everyone and has received mixed reviews at best. I found it to be a good film (but not great). I'm not a big fan of tragedies and while this film does find 'hope in the darkness', like all good films should, it's still a little too dark and depressing for me (great performances though).
The film is about a family of farmers (the Whipples), who are desperately trying to stay successful in the increasingly competitive modern world of agriculture. They're lead by Henry Whipple (Quaid) and the film centers primarily on his relationship with his second eldest son, Dean (Efron). Having already lost his eldest son, from following in his footsteps (he left and is climbing a mountain somewhere far away), Henry desperately wants Dean to continue the family business. Dean wants to leave town as well though and dreams of becoming a race car driver. When an investigation into illegal seeding practices, by the Whipples, begins to haunt the family, and threatens to destroy their business, Dean and Henry are brought closer together (but tragedy also strikes).
The film co-stars Kim Dickens, Heather Graham, Maika Monroe, Chelcie Ross and Clancy Brown. They're all adequate in the film but it's Quaid and Efron that really shine. Some say it's Quaid's best performance ever (like Ebert had) but he's always been a good actor. It's Efron that continues to surprise me! Having started out as a prettyboy teen star I never thought he had much talent but he continues to prove me wrong (especially here). Bahrani's directing is good, the cinematography is beautiful and the story is involving and believable. Like I said it's just a little too dark and depressing for me, although there are positive moments as well. I prefer to see life as more positive than negative and this isn't a movie I'd say reinforces that notion.
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