At Any Price
|At Any Price|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ramin Bahrani|
|Music by||Dickon Hinchliffe|
|Edited by||Douglas Aibel|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Classics|
At Any Price is a 2012 American drama film directed by Ramin Bahrani and written by Bahrani and Hallie Newton. The film, starring Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron, was selected to compete for the Golden Lion at the 69th Venice International Film Festival, and later screened as an official selection at both the Telluride Film Festival and the 2012 Toronto Film Festival. Sony Pictures Classics purchased the film and it was released in the United States on April 24, 2013.
An ambitious farmer Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) discusses with his son Dean (Zac Efron) about the art of sales. Dean is reluctant to be a ruthless as his father as they offer condolences and also unscrupulously attempt to purchase land during a family funeral. After returning home they roll out the red carpet for their son who has left the farm and mentions returning via a postcard but appears unlikely to return. As the story progresses we see that Henry Whipple is having an affair with Meredith Crown (Heather Graham) and his ongoing selfish decisions will continue to derail his future. He has created enemies within the genetically modified (GMO) seed-selling business including Jim Johnson (Clancy Brown) -- his main competitor -- and fails to help those that have helped him by buying cheaper illegal “cleaned“ seeds in his search for more money and land.
Dean desires to become a professional race car driver as a means to escape the generations of family farming and his father's neglect (and undesirable sales techniques). During yet another local racing competition which he wins, Dean's aggressive driving causes the crash of Jim Johnson's son, Brad. They fight after the race, further fueling the feud between Henry and Jim. Racing scouts give Dean an opportunity to race at a professional level. He needs $15,000 to compete and his mother Irene (Kim Dickens) supplies it. This causes tension with Henry who is worried about his illegal dealings catching up with him.
Dean falters during his NASCAR opportunity by slowing when pressured by aggressive drivers during the race. He knows his opportunity to leave the farm is now gone and he spirals downwards, drinking and having sex with Meredith Crown damaging his relationship with his girlfriend Cadence Farrow (Maika Monroe). She appears to be a typical country girl but displays sales savvy to help Henry as well as being aware of the father and son attraction to pretty gals like Meredith. Dean purposely drives his car into a tree in a field which requires hospitalisation and a long recovery period. His father buys him another race car but he is not interested anymore. Henry is followed and confronted by Liberty investigators, the company he buys and sells his GMO seeds from. He has been "cleaning" seeds and reusing rather than buying from Liberty. If found guilty he will likely be bankrupt. Dean finds out about his father's crime from his now ex-girlfriend who is moving away. Dean searches for the informant who contacted Liberty. He wrongly believes it is their major sales opponent, Jim Johnson. He ends up in another altercation with Jim Johnson's son Ben on the side of the road and, after some fighting, he hits Ben with a hammer causing his death. Together with his father they bury Ben and the hammer in a deep well.
Henry finds out the real informant is Byron (Chelcie Ross) who missed out on the land he purchased at the start of the movie. Henry offers Byron a very good deal to use the land he bought for free for life as long as he stops Liberty investigating further. Dean's mother is aware something is wrong with Dean and Henry and that they may have been involved in Ben's disappearance. When she confronts Henry, he informs her that he alone was responsible. Dean is listening, realizing his father does truly love him and that he is also permanently indebted to him.
Life goes on with Dean becoming more like his father as they easily outsell their main opposition Jim Johnson, who is a shell of a man after his son's disappearance. Henry almost confesses to Jim, but then falls back into his capitalist persona, letting him know they have retaken some of his clients. Irene receives one of several postcards in an ongoing series from her overseas traveling son, suggesting once again he would be home soon. The movie ends with Henry, Dean and Irene Whipple putting on a party at their home for clients and friends with strained smiles on their faces.
- Dennis Quaid as Henry Whipple
- Zac Efron as Dean Whipple
- Kim Dickens as Irene Whipple
- Heather Graham as Meredith Crown
- Clancy Brown as Jim Johnson
- Ben Marten as Brad Johnson
- Chelcie Ross as Byron
- Red West as Cliff Whipple
- Maika Monroe as Cadence Farrow
- Sophie Curtis as Aubrey
At Any Price received mixed reviews. The film holds a 51% approval rating based on 104 reviews, with an average rating of 5.74/10, on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. The website's critical consensus states, "At Any Price features a terrific performance from Dennis Quaid, and it offers further evidence of Ramin Bahrani's unique eye for detail, but film is weighted down by an overly melodramatic story." On Metacritic, the film has a 61 out of 100 rating based on 33 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film 4 out of 4 stars, praising Bahrani for delving deep into the plot with layers and themes that communicate effectively and singling out Dennis Quaid's performance as his best as "a flawed man with selfish values, a man for whom business success has seemed desirable no matter what its human cost."
Stephen Holden of The New York Times said that the performances of Quaid and Efron help deviate the film away from its credit straining plot twist, saying that they "drive them home in a movie that sticks to your ribs and stays in your head." Noel Murray of The A.V. Club gave the film a "C–", finding it a disappointment with its complex farmland plot being wasted with performances and dialogue "at the level of a Founders’ Day pageant". Holden also noted that Bahrani's intention of making a mainstream film with substance will detract his usual audience, saying that "He’s treating them like dolts by making a film that holds to the corniest aspects of Hollywood storytelling, interrupted by bullet points."
- "At Any Price (18)". British Board of Film Classification. September 1, 2015. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
- "At Any Price". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
- "Venezia 69". la Biennale di Venezia. Archived from the original on July 28, 2012. Retrieved July 26, 2012.
- Evans, Ian (2012). "At Any Price TIFF premiere gallery". Digital Hit Entertainment. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- "At Any Price (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
- "At Any Price". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
- Ebert, Roger (April 25, 2013). "At Any Price". Retrieved October 10, 2015.
- Holden, Stephen (April 23, 2013). "'At Any Price,' Directed by Ramin Bahrani". The New York Times. Retrieved October 10, 2015.
- Murray, Noel (April 25, 2013). "At Any Price". The A.V. Club. Retrieved October 10, 2015.