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Tuesday, September 24

At any price

"Expand or die." As parents, we go to great lengths to make our children follow into our footsteps, whether on a personal level or professionally. And how hard it is for us to accept that they might have a mind of their own and wishes that we fail to understand. Dennis Quaid and Zac Effron, father and son, share no mutual views on life as it is, yet they indulge in the sexual favours of the same woman played by Heather Graham. Different opinions, same tastes, right?

Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) is a hard-working farmer who does everything in his power to keep a good business, his two sons close to him, his wife happy and his mistress satisfied. And he fails miserably in everything: he find himself under Monsanto investigation, his elder son would rather climb the highest mountains than join the family business, his younger one (Zac Effron) is into car races, the wife knows about his affair and the lover complains about his manhood. With an ageing father who accuses him of ruining the family farm and a son who would rather spend his time racing for NASCAR or making out with his girlfriend (Maika Monroe), Henry is trying hard to keep things together on all fronts. 

One remarkable thing about the movie is Dennis Quaid's performance. In the beginning he is portrayed as a family guy, a friendly neighbour and a good business man; yet his grin and backslapping manner of dealing with things and people are too fake. Illegal practises, cheating, failing as a parent unpleasantly surface his perfect image and this crack reveals more than meets the eye. He is himself a son desperate not to fail his own father, an insecure husband, a poor lover and has some false expectations about his two sons. With all these unexpected truths hitting him in the face, Henry is no quitter. Without going soft, he overcomes his fears, takes matters into his own hands, make amends for his lack of ethics, saves his son's neck, takes the blame upon him and finally manages to keep his family together. 

At any price takes a close look at the hardships of being a farmer, the issue of genetically modified seeds, the pressure of keeping a successful business and the illicit practises of doing agriculture. There is a striking contradiction between Henry's perfect, green, healthy corn fields and the dirt that makes his business. Another surprising blow comes from the violent turn the movie takes when Dean and the son of his father's competitor (Clancy Brown) start an argument that takes them from the racing track to the corn fields. It is, after all, a cruel, imperfect world that threatens to erupt and bury everyone. The simplicity of the old times, as Henry remembers them himself, has lost ground to the industrialised business of genetic modifications.

Henry’s rebellious son Dean (Zac Efron) takes a chance at making it all the way to NASCAR competitions, yet his own inner conflicts make him freak out and fail. The small town mentality and his own limitations throw him into adulthood and he comes to accept his fate: he will work for the family, expanding his father's business and making the farm more prosperous than it is. Pretty  newcomer Maika Monroe as Dean’s girlfriend Cadence and the discreete Kim Dickens are the tough ladies behind the men who fail to appreciate their support and love.
On the whole, At any price is not an emotional movie, yet it kind of juggles with the dramatic moments, turning the story into an ambiguous one, in terms of morals and ethics. In life, you need to expand in order to avoid failure, yet it is crucial how you choose to grow as a person or to how you come to accept the questionable choices. 
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