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At Any Price

How far will you go to chase a dream...

Whatever your expectations of "At Any Price," expect them to be flipped. Take this example from Ramin Bahrani's strong and surprising drama set in Iowa's corn country. Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid), a rapaciously successful farmer and seller of genetically modified seeds, is lamenting the passing of the old days, when everything seemed so simple. But Henry's father, played by Red West, has no patience for such nostalgia. "Let me tell you what simple is," the old man replies. "It's a 48-row planter that drives itself, with air conditioning and GPS." Father and son are locked into the same ethos. Acquire ever more acreage. Dominate the seed business. Expand or die. It's a long way from traditional family farming, but a tale that rings true, despite some melodramatic manipulations, and a chilling portrait of a man who devours what he can, regardless of the consequences. Mr. Quaid has long been an effortlessly likable star. Yet there's something wrong with Henry's charm at the outset, an exuberance that's eerily out of scale, and it's tempting to fault the actor until you realize how skillfully, even bravely, he's building a compulsive gladhander of a character who smiles without warmth, speaks without listening, and lectures his rebellious son Dean (Zac Efron), without understanding what the boy wants or, indeed, who he is. Mr. Bahrani directed from a script he wrote with Hallie Elizabeth Newton. The excellent cast includes Kim Dickens, Clancy Brown, Maika Monroe and Heather Graham. Michael Simmonds was the cinematographer. Here's another film, along with "Mud," that's in the American grain, but a genetically conditioned grain of unforgiving fathers and overweening ambition. It's powerful stuff. Courtesy: Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal Official Trailer

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Directed by: 
Ramin Bahrani
Running Time: 
Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron, Heather Graham, Kim Dickens, Clancy Brown
Screenplay by: 
Ramin Bahrani

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