Director | Ramin Bahrani
Producers | Rahmin Bahrani, Pamela Koffler, Justin Nappi, Teddy Schwarzman, Kevin Turen, Christine Vachon
Writers | Ramin Bahrani, Hallie Elizabeth Newton
Cast | Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron, Kim Dickens, Heather Graham, Clancy Brown, Maika Monroe
Run Time | 104 mins.
Certificate | 18
Plot | Ambitious agriculturist Henry Whipple (Quaid) wants his son Dean (Efron) to take on the family business. Dean rebels, setting his sights on becoming a NASCAR driver instead. As both pursue their own goals, a legal investigation sparks a chain of events that threatens to derail both their dreams.
Review | Plots meander and lazily intertwine at a sedate pace, making At Any Price feel like a slow-burning novel. A potential indie darling, it is a shame that, even with a few decent performances, it becomes such a forgettable affair.
The lead character has depth, but by spending too much time on Henry’s flaws, the audience becomes unsympathetic to his cause. This isn’t helped when his competitor Jim Johnson (a good, if sparingly used Clancy Brown) seems a totally stand up guy that just happens to be better at business that our leading man.
Of the remaining characters, Zac Efron is fine as Dean (though all he has to do is generally look grumpy) and Kim Dickens does okay with a bland script. Only Maika Monroe’s Cadence gets any sort of character development, and she shows a glimmer of the talent we’d later see in The Guest and It Follows (At Any Price was released in 2013 in the US, but only in January here). Heather Graham (again, fine) might as well have not been in the film for the three or four short scenes she gets.
A few have praised writer/director Bahrani for creating a picture bold enough to have a messy plotline, with subplots either unresolved or fizzling out with a whimper. However, while this may be a more accurate mirror of real life, it also invites tedium and disconnect. Many visit the cinema for escapism; only the hands of a talented few (see Richard Linklater’s Boyhood) can pull off captivating realism.
The less said about the melodramatic twist about twenty five minutes from the end, the better.
The Verdict | A bold but misguided effort, this slice of rural mid-western Americana misses more than it hits, with tragic melodrama and an inconsistent plot overshadowing what could have been.
2.5 / 5