Beatricia: Maybe you darlings didn’t know about how stealing patented seeds for replanting is a major crime that warrants investigation by the FBI? That’s where an educational treat like “At Any Price” comes in. You hadn’t heard about “At Any Price,” an agriculturally-oriented update of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”? That’s ok, neither had anyone else in the nation. When Hollywood gives us a small, thoughtful drama about farmers from Iowa, we avoid it exactly as much as would avoid ACTUAL farmers from Iowa blabbering about FarmAid. If only “At Any Price” had some “uncut” version with 10 extra minutes of tractors that turn into robots! In its current form- as a quiet drama about the life of a grifting, cheating, desperately human farmer (Dennis Quaid)- it flopped quicker than your average Old McDonald when he tries to stand up against Monsanto. Quite instructive, though.
Hank: Man, that Dennis Quaid was fantastic in this! A well meaning father trying to gather money for future generations- what’s so villainous about that? Not gonna lie, the movie in general is as thrilling as getting lost in a corn-field for two-hours and a half after trusting in the directions of the mean-spirited, city-slicker-hating middle-agent attendant at Big Gus’ Gas right outside of Des Moines.
Beatricia: That was unusually specific, Hanky.
Hank: It should be. The bitter memory lingers. I gave Big Gus’ Gas a scathing 1-star review on Yelp.
Cousin Franz: Aravind Adiga dedicated both “The White Tiger” and its follow-up, “Between the Assassinations,” to Ramin Bahrani, the Iranian-American director who made three indie near-masterpieces (“Man Push Cart,” “Chop Shop,” and “Goodbye Solo”) before stumbling with the relatively big-budgeted “At Any Price.” This is a noble flop, with a career-best performance by the underrated Dennis Quaid as Henry Whipple, a very flawed character trying to make a profit by any means necessary. Meanwhile, his scrupulous, disappointed son (Zac Efron) wants to walk away from the family’s risky business and engage in another rural American venture: Nascar racing. Ramin Bahrani does not please crowds, but he’s one of a handful of filmmakers who CARES about the crowds, about the quiet struggles of the voiceless masses. Don’t worry, though: despite the talk about GMOs and farmers being shoved out of business, “At Any Price” never indulges in pamphleteering. In fact, it may be Bahrani’s least political film. The father-son drama is simply set in a recognizable rural setting ; any proletarian politics stem from the specificity.
Tracey: Bahrani is one of the greats, and I still tear up a little thinking about “Chop Shop,” which everyone should be forced to watch as an education in empathy and humanity. Bahrani is one of the few directors who has the courage to make statements of actual importance- even at the “price” of box-office failure. He strips America of Hollywood-esque glamor to film the truth we are all witnesses to, but few of us acknowledge. As Bahrani once pointed out, if he films America as if it were a Third World country, it’s because most of it already IS a Third World Country.
Grandpa Felicius: Soon as “At Any Price” started, I prepped my nostrils for the smell of Marxism that I thought would waft from this Iranian-Bahranian propaganda. Instead, I got a corny, flag-waving melodrama about small-towners singing John Mellencamp’s anthems. At least the Marxist propaganda would have given me something to be irascible about; this left me as unmoved as an ear of corn on a windless morn.
Trent: I started this thinking: “DOPE! ‘Children of the Corn Part Eleven” is a-popping!” Then I get a lecture on PROPER SEED DISTRIBUTION ON FALLOW FIELDS? What am I, Amish? And to add insult to injury, Zac Efron’s nipples show up? No Cherry.
Tracey: OMG, yes, I forgot, Zac Efron is half-shirtless through most of this! Double Cherry!
Blurbarella: “Average– Dennis Quaid was–Unusually–Bitter.–He strips– For the Smell of– Zac Efron’s nipples.”
3 out of 6 Cherries