At Any Price
Rating: The title of this film should have been “To Be Avoided At Any Price.”;
Director Ramin Bahrani’s At Any Price is dull beyond words, operating as a profound insult to Iowa corn farmers. Starring Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron as a dueling father and son, the film reflects Hollywood’s total misunderstanding of Americans living in the heartland.
Tragically, it appears that Director Bahrani’s needed all male adults living in present day Iowa to act as if they are mentally handicapped. They all have annoying facial expressions right down to goofy grins that make them appear to be little more than arrogant 12-year olds. While they are all proud of their large farms, they will gladly unlawfully sell chemically altered corn to make a buck.
While I hate to use this term, the ugly reality of this disastrous cinematic mess is the obvious need to make successful farmers like Quaid look retarded. They honor their loving wives by having cheap affairs, and they demand that their children function as zombie offspring to succeed them. You really don’t need to know any more about this movie than the fact that Heather Graham plays a motley low life named Meredith Crown, and proceeds to distinguish everyone by simultaneously having an affair with Quaid and Efron.
The irony about this male dominated film is that the only strong characters in the film are women. Kim Dickens plays Quaid’s wife, Irene Whipple, who still sees strength in a husband who insists on masquerading as a full-time fool. Ms. Monroe plays a teenage waif named Candace Farrow. Though she has her sights set on Mr. Efron’s Dean Whipple, she finally is forced to intelligently move on when he adopts the weaknesses of his father.
While Mr. Quaid’s career has involved a collection of forgettable films, I prefer to always remember him for his performance as our President in American Dreamz (2006); the shiftless alcoholic Frank Whitaker in Far From Heaven (2002) and his classic performance as Gordon Cooper in the memorable The Right Stuff (1983). As for Mr. Efron, I admire the fact that he is trying to pursue Matthew McConaughey’s recent decision to play complicated characters in independent films. While I didn’t like last year’s The Paperboy, Efron’s performance was outstanding. In addition, hunt down both Liberal Arts (2012) and Me and Orson Welles (2008), two meaningful films that clearly suggest that we are likely to see some interesting performances from Mr. Efron down the road.
In the meantime, if you want to watch a movie about Iowa farmers, then go see the classic Field of Dreams (1989). As for At Any Price, I can only quote the memorable line given by Barry Newman in one of the worst TV series ever, “Petrocelli”, in which he arrogantly dismissed a young woman with the admonition, “You’re dull, baby!” He must have been anticipating this film.