By Gary Murray

Starring Zac Efron, Dennis Quaid and Heather Graham

Written by Ramin Bahrani and Hallie Elizabeth Newton

Directed by Ramin Bahrani

Running time 105 min

MPAA Rating R

Selig Film Rating Cable


Hollywood has been working hard to turn Zac Efron into a major star.  The actor broke big with the High School Musical series of TV movies and films.  Since then he has been in such flicks as Charlie St. Cloud, 17 Again and The Lucky One.  Arguably, his strongest performance was in 2008s Me and Orson Welles.  The latest vehicle to put him on the A-list is At Any Price.

The story is of the family farm.  Henry (Dennis Quaid) is a farmer and seed salesman, part of a generation of men who have worked the land for decades.  His oldest son and inheritor of the family farm Grant has been off at college.  Dean (Zac Efron) is the younger brother who is more interested in auto racing than farming.  He has a car that he uses in local races and dreams of a shot at NASCAR.

Things are not perfect on the farm.  The film opens with Henry and Dean at a funeral.  Dad is there to poach the farmland and get 200 acres for his wayward son Grant to start his own farming empire.  The idea of the family farm is expand or die.

Henry is struggling with his seed business and has done some slightly unethical activities to keep his head above water.  He also has been keeping a mistress Meredith (Heather Graham) on the side.

Dean has a girlfriend and a dream, but not much more.  When his brother doesn’t show back up at the farm, it becomes obvious that Dean will be forced to take over the business, something he does not want to do.  Eventually, he’s given the chance to drive a NASCAR vehicle in a major race.  All he needs to do is come up with $15,000.

The rest of the story of At Any Price is of these two different plot threads coming to a head in a collision point.  It is also of head-strong people who will do anything to get ahead.

This is one of the best performances by Dennis Quaid. He is vain and confident, confused and self-centered all within the same beat.  It takes a lot of guts to play a less than sympatric character and still find the humanity within the role.  This is a masterful performance from an actor who is seldom given his due. 

Watching Heather Graham one begins to wonder—can she play anything other than a loose woman?  This is another re-tread of a part she has done so many times before.  Heather looks great but is becoming typecast as a low morals femme.

Zac Efron has the ability to be a great actor but this is not his best performance.  As his dreams are crushed on the asphalt, the believably of the event rings hollow.  He is a good kid caught in a bad circumstance, poised on the threshold of manhood and unsure if he should take the next step.

The biggest problem with the movie is that it just drags along.  It never builds to a climax.  While the scenes of corn fields are pretty to look at, it doesn’t make for a great film.   Ramin Bahrani makes a very literary work and it would have worked more as a novel than a screenplay.  Film needs action and not introspection. 

At Any Price is not a movie that will light up the box office. It tries to be a tangent version of Field of Dreams and simply becomes just another contender. 

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