Ramin Bahrani’s At Any Price is a rare film. It holds one of the most perfect endings I’ve seen in the history of my moviegoing, yet remains surrounded by a compelling, if sometimes consistently mediocre tale. This is a story of the decay of American farming life, but also one of family legacy, and generational influence that fundamentally remains interesting. It’s reminiscent in that regard to The Place Beyond the Pines, a great film from earlier this year that focused on both fathers and sons and the consequences of their actions. Here, Dennis Quaid plays a father who makes some deplorable decisions throughout his life; one of those causes distancing from his son, played by Zac Efron, who wants to become a NASCAR driver rather than work for his father as a farmer. There’s a morality tale hidden within this film, and only in the film’s final half hour does it begin to hold a tremendous emotional impact. It’s a long build, often filled with far too explicit descriptions of the movie’s themes; it burdens the film, holding it back from reaching its potential. But this is an observant film in the end of a family struggling to get by, at any price.
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