Alejandro, a resourceful street orphan on the verge of adolescence, lives and works in an auto-body repair shop in a sprawling junkyard on the outskirts of Queens, New York. In this chaotic world of adults, Alejandro struggles to make a better life for himself and his sixteen-year-old sister.
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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
Writer/Director Rahim Bahrani, responsible for the indie hit, Goodbye Solo (2008) puts some of his best cinematic qualities to use in his newest film At Any Price starring Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron. Bahrani's take on mid-western culture is at times fascinating though has many instances of feeling like a Lifetime movie of the week. Layered with narrative vices and escalating tension, the true savior of the film is the powerhouse performance by Quaid.
Telling the story of the Whipple's, a farming family whose agriculture business is threatened by an impending investigation of their fields and the procedures they follow. In the midst of the ordeal, the relationship of a father and his rebellious son (Efron) is tested to their max. Bahrani's interpretation of modern-day Iowa and the communities that surround is an interesting examination of American values that he respectfully caresses however; he does tend to lean on the clichéd dialogue of family melodrama with short cuts and unrealistic story developments that don't do him or his characters any favors. Dennis Quaid is an interesting anomaly of an actor that hasn't made his due with the major awards. After fearlessly diving into a character that's self-centered, wretched, and downright degrading, Quaid outdoes most of his earlier works of cinema. The journey that he takes pitiful Henry down is a testament to his dedication to the craft. Magnificently portrayed and later moderately redeemed, the performance stands as one of the best turns of the Tribeca Film Festival and the first quarter of 2013.
Zac Efron is a horse of a different color. Efron has struggled in his attempts to serious acting like last year's The Paperboy (2012) and Charlie St. Cloud (2010). Efron puts forth his best effort as an actor so far as the young, rebellious Dean. He's going through an interesting transition as Efron is discovering his abilities and becoming aware of his boundaries as an actor. Dean lets loose when he needs to and still gives off a sex appeal that doesn't feel forced and very much accessible for the viewer.
Co-stars Heather Graham has seemed to have gotten stuck in the same, type-casted, underdeveloped female role that doesn't hint at any of the promises that were made in when she came into our cinematic minds in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights (1997). Newcomer Maika Monroe shows hints of promise in her limited role but is held back by contrived conversations and confined emotional abilities. It's also great to see veteran actor Clancy Brown still delivering strong work in his later years. A brief but memorable turn that reminds us about the talents of a wonderful character actor.
Overall, the story is respectable and tolerable. Bahrani is a noble director that may be able to shine in brighter and more ambitious projects in the future. The true gem of the picture lies in the multi- dimensional performance of Dennis Quaid and the surprising effectiveness of Zac Efron. Cinematographer Michael Simmonds also manages to acquire some graceful and ravishing shots of the serene farmlands of American agriculture. A technical merit worthy of a mention. A commendable and skilled work.
At Any Price is simply gratifying. A must-see of the Tribeca Film Festival. Check out the trailer below. The film opens in theaters on April 24th.
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