Written and Directed by Ramin Bahrani
Starring Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron and Kim Dickens
Irene Whipple: Why can’t you be happy with what’s right in front of you?
The world of genetically engineered seeds is about as intriguing a world as you would expect it to be. It’s aging farmers covertly cleaning seeds so that they can be reused; it’s men in suits following men in overalls, making sure they aren’t reselling seeds that are not supposed to be resold. It’s interesting from a historical perspective to see how the American farming industry has changed over the years from the backbone of the country to a corporate controlled and publicly traded commodity. To watch this on film though, is as exciting as say, watching corn grow. Fortunately for AT ANY PRICE, the latest film from independent filmmaker, Ramin Bahrani (GOODBYE SOLO), the farmer tending these particular fields is Dennis Quaid. His turn here as the modern farmer makes these doldrums at the very least watchable.
Henry Whipple (Quaid) does not share the same problems his father did when he was running the farm. He remembers being a kid and living on a family run farm where cows were milked and chickens laid eggs to sell at market. Now it’s his turn to run the fourth generation farm and he can barely keep it all together. His relationship with his wife (Kim Dickens) is strained, to say the least. This might be because he is seeing a former flame (Heather Graham) on the side. One of his sons (Patrick Stevens) has already left their Iowa home to climb mountains, while the other (Zac Efron), is his only remaining hope to inherit the farm. Of course, he has no interest in doing so as he would rather race cars instead. Then there is the nasty business with the seed tampering of course. The manner in which Quaid balances all of this is quite impressive really. There is a smile on his face at all times but you can see his entire life falling apart in his eyes and hear it in his voice. It is certainly one of Quaid’s finest performances, just not one of the best films to showcase it.
The rest of the AT ANY PRICE ensemble does a formidable job, including Efron, who continues to push himself, and expand his audience, with more marginal fare. This is Quaid’s game to lose though and, while years of working his own fields have led to strong performances like this one, it is almost all AT ANY PRICE has going for it by the time the cows come home.