At Any Price Blu-ray Review
AT ANY PRICE is practically the best film title this piece of work can have. It describes the motives of the people involved in the most simplest and basic of terms. It brings clarity and you know what to expect. AT ANY PRICE explores all emotions on the human scale and does so in a way that people can relate to someone that’s on the screen. That is rare indeed. This is not a perfect piece of work, but it is always compelling to watch.
Dennis Quaid plays Henry Whipple, a farmer as slick as they come. He is quick with the compliments and with his business cards. Henry also sells seeds from Liberty Seeds to other farmers. You see Henry’s sliminess when he goes to a funeral just to purchase farm land for one of his sons. It’s disrespectful, but it works. Zac Efron plays Dean Whipple, his arrogant son who doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps. He wants to race cars and eventually get to the Sprint Cup series in Nascar. That’s where the big bucks and fame are at. Henry of course is not totally on board with this dream and thinks his son is wasting his life chasing this “hobby”.
Henry also has another son named Grant (Patrick W. Stevens). You can tell that Grant is Henry’s favorite. He was a football star and Henry bought the farm land for him. Grant has other ideas as we barely seen him on screen. He is mostly featured in flashbacks. Grant is away trying to climb one of highest mountain peaks in South America. This is another sore point for Henry as his golden child does not necessarily want to take on the family farming legacy. Kim Dickens is Henry’s dutiful wife Irene. Irene just wants best for her children. She doesn’t want to force them into anything.
Henry is the best seller in seven counties in Iowa including Decateur. Scratch that because Jim Johnson (Clancy Brown) has snatched that away from him. This is one of the relationships explored in AT ANY PRICE. The rivalry between Jim and Henry can essentially be seen as a David and Goliath scenario. Jim is the Goliath here as he has three times as many counties under his belt as Henry. It is perfectly illustrated in a sales presentation where a salesman seeks and gets Jim’s endorsement, but brushes off Henry’s attempts at getting in on the action.
Henry is not just busy with his farming empire; he is also having an affair with Meredith (the underused Heather Graham). This is an affair of convenience. Henry basically wants just one thing from Meredith and she happily obliges. Dean has a girlfriend himself in Cadence (Maika Monroe), a girl from a broken home. It is a playful relationship that takes several turns along the way.
Trouble though is brewing for Henry. Investigators for Liberty Seeds are coming after him. He is being accused of cleaning and reusing their seeds. This is big no no in the farming industry and is illegal. Henry had been doing this with the help of longtime family friend Byron (the always great Chelcie Ross). There are a couple of nice scenes between the two characters. Each has time to show their desperation to the other. The big mystery is who the person who informed on Henry was.
The last half of AT ANY PRICE delves into the motivations of the different characters as tragedy strikes. There were times where I got frustrated at what is not said by these people. But after a while I understood. Some families just deal with tragedy and setbacks in different ways. What seems to be not normal is perfectly fine with another family and their circumstances. Dennis Quaid does some fine acting here. Henry is being pulled in so many directions and is trying to keep it together. The scene where he is sobbing on the bed is so poignant and rich. It shows that even someone as together as Henry can have a breaking point. There is also a fantastic scene where the camera slowly pans into Quaid’s face as Henry’s son is speaking at the customer appreciation day. There is a resignation on it that things will never be the same and he’s coming to that realization.
Director Rahmin Bahrani has created a piece of work that makes you think to what lengths you will go for your family. He also seems to be asking in his screenplay with Hallie Elizabeth Newton of how much success and money is ever enough. There is a definite price to be paid in striving to be the best. It could come in lost relationships, bad health or the losing of one’s soul. That is the question that we all have to ask at one point.
AT ANY PRICE richly explores family life, farm life and the secrets people keep. It kept my interest throughout because I honestly didn’t know where it was going.
AT ANY PRICE BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: Farm life is beautifully realized on this disc. The vast farmlands are a sight to behold.
Audio: The sound is clear and makes perfect use of the wonderful score by Dickon Hinchliffe.
Rehearsal Footage (5:35): This is Bahrani and others blocking and preparing shots for the movie in pre-production. I am not sure if this feature is really needed. It didn’t add much in my mind.
Toronto International Film Festival Q & A (13:36): Director Bahrani and actors Quaid, Dickens, Efron and Monroe discuss the making of the film. Bahrani gives his thoughts on his inspiration for the project. The actors tell of their favorite and most difficult scenes.
Commentary with Director Ramin Bahrani and Dennis Quaid: A matter of fact commentary from the two men. You get useful nuggets like Clancy Brown improvising some dialogue in a key scene with Dennis Quaid’s character.