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DVD Review: At Any Price

August 27, 2013

At Any Price DVD CoverAt Any Price – A Sony Pictures Classics’ Release

http://www.sonyclassics.com/atanyprice/

DVD Release Date: August 27th, 2013

Rated 14A for violence and coarse language

Running time: 105 minutes

Ramin Bahrani (dir.)

Ramin Bahrani (writer)

Hallie Elizabeth Newton (writer)

Dickon Hinchliffe (music)

Dennis Quaid as Henry Whipple

Zac Efron as Dean Whipple

Maika Monroe as Cadence Farrow

Kim Dickens as Irene Whipple

Heather Graham as Meredith Crown

Our reviews below:

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At Any Price DVD Review By John C.

** (out of 4)

Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) is an agricultural farmer who will stop at nothing to further his business, buying up land from the deceased and finding ways to get around the strict rules of the GMO seed companies, even if it means breaking the law.  His son Dean (Zac Efron) rebels against the family business by taking part in stock car races with the support of his girlfriend Cadence (Maika Monroe), but everything starts to go downhill when the farm becomes the subject of an investigation.

Although At Any Price has some interesting moments, the often slow moving film quickly segues into melodrama, as the screenplay forgets about characters and even entire plot points that were already introduced.  Ramin Bahrani is a talented director who last delivered the small gem Goodbye Solo, which just makes this film feel disappointing.  Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron both give fine performances, but any meaning that the story has to offer just seems lost in the shuffle, and At Any Price ultimately feels like the sort of generally mediocre film that goes straight to DVD.

The DVD includes commentary with Ramin Bahrain and Dennis Quaid, rehearsal footage as well as video from the Q&A that took place at last year’s TIFF, where the film premiered.

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At Any Price DVD Review By Erin V.

** (out of 4)

At Any Price starts out as a story about the disconnect between father Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid), a farmer in small town Iowa, and his son Dean (Zac Efron) who wants to be a race car driver instead of inheriting the family business.  Henry works for Liberty Seeds, selling GMO seeds to buyers in the area, and Dean wants nothing to do with it – at first.  The film then takes a bunch of turns, pretty much forgetting its original story focus and delves into melodrama.  As this happens, the moral and ethical decisions of the characters are rarely discussed and actually do not even appear to affect them negatively by the end.  I guess for them, it really is ‘at any price.’

The film feels a bit like a TV drama, and while the acting from Quaid and Efron is fine, the majority of the cast comes in more on the serviceable end of things.  If the trailer piques your curiosity you might feel like checking this one out now that it’s released to DVD, but it certainly isn’t one I’d say you need to seek out.  While At Any Price played at TIFF and other big festivals last year, there are other better films that came out of them that should be sought out first.

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At Any Price DVD Review By Nicole

** (out of 4)

At Any Price starts out with an interesting premise.  The film begins with old footage of natural family farms.  This is contrasted by the story of the Whipple family farm, a huge agribusiness that grows GMO corn and uses pesticides.  The head farmer, Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) crashes local funerals and buys up land left by the deceased.  He wants his son Dean (Zac Efron) to take over the farm.  But Dean wishes to become a race car driver.

If you think this is Turbo mixed with an environmental theme, you would be mistaken.  Sure, the DVD package makes it seem that way.  But while At Any Price starts out debating the ethics of GMO and the practise of patenting life forms, the film quickly forgets about these issues, and delves into needless melodrama.  The characters are not even likeable.  Dean not only robs an auto shop, he also commits a much worse crime later on, with the help of his dad.  Plenty of other needless plot points add to the annoyingly melodramatic distractions from the environmental and racing themes.  I wish At Any Price had focused on the GMO storyline and delved into it further.

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At Any Price DVD Review By Maureen

** (out of 4)

The tagline on the DVD cover of At Any Price is “how far would you go to chase a dream?”  The answer is, as far as you need to go, so long as you don’t get caught.  On the surface, this is a movie about the changing world of running a family farm in the American midwest.  Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) is a farmer/corn seed salesman whose greed and ambition has him turn a blind eye to some of the questionable tactics and ethics of selling GMO corn seeds.

Even a graveside full of mourners is fair game for a sales pitch for land and product.  Henry knows that if he wants to expand the family business, he’ll have to count on the support of his two sons, Grant and Dean (Zac Efron).  The problem is, Grant would rather be off climbing mountains and Dean is busy trying to make it to NASCAR since his real love is stock car racing.  Between winning race trophies and hanging out with his free spirited girlfriend Cadence (Maika Monroe), Dean hasn’t got much patience for Dad’s insistence he learn the ropes of seed sales.

A big part of At Any Price is the troubled relationship between Henry and Dean.  It isn’t until Dean gets himself into a serious dark situation that father and son form an uneasy bond.  It turns out the two men have a similar moral compass.  While the performances from Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron are solid, their characters aren’t that likeable.  The choices they make leave no room for sympathy for either of them.  The only sympathetic characters are Henry’s wife Irene (Kim Dickens) and Dean’s girlfriend Cadence.

At Any Price has the feel of a middle of the road made for TV movie.  But fans of Dennis Quaid or Zac Efron may want to check it out for their performances.

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At Any Price DVD Review By Tony

** (out of 4)

At Any Price is an immorality tale from the cornfields of the American midwest. With his own father  (Red West) looking over his shoulder, third generation corn farmer and seed marketing rep Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) hopes his sons Grant and Dean (Zac Efron) will take over the family business. After literally rolling out a red carpet for the older Grant’s return from college, Henry and his wife Irene (Kim Dickens) get a postcard from South America informing them that he won’t be home any time soon. Dean’s preference for stock car racing also proves to be a disappointment, though his girlfriend Cadence (Maika Monroe) shows a flair for selling seeds.

Though outwardly a churchgoing family man, Henry continues to make morally questionable choices. He attends a funeral to persuade grieving family members who have moved away to sell him land, forcing eviction of a long time tenant farmer (Dan Waller). He blows off an old neighbour (Chelcie Ross) now down on his luck, despite some not always legal favours to his family over the years. He has a mistress (Heather Graham) who also has eyes for Dean. At least his competition with the more successful marketer Jim Johnson (Clancy Brown) remains outwardly civil, though their sons Dean and Brad (Ben Marten) are bitter rivals on the race track.

A series of events leads to setbacks and tragedy in the lives of Henry and Dean, with an outcome that I found unsatisfying. The film is watchable enough with excellent performances by Quaid and Efron leading a good if not outstanding cast, but after his previous feature Goodbye Solo, I expected more from writer/director Ramin Bahrani.

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Consensus: Directed by Ramin Barani, the mediocre farming drama At Any Price features fine performances from Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron, but the morals of the characters are questionable and the story relies heavily on melodrama.  ** (Out of 4)

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