At Any Price: A patent on life

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At Any Price – 2012

Director Ramin Bahrani
Starring Zac Efron, Dennis Quaid, Heather Graham, Kim Dickens, Clancy Brown, Red West, Maika Monroe
Screenplay by Bahrani and Hallie Elizabeth Newton

Things I don’t mind seeing:

  • Any movie introducing the debate about GMO seeds.
  • An actor attempting to move forward in their profession.
  • Films about the difficulties involved with farming honestly in the U.S.
  • Kim Dickens in any role.
  • Clancy Brown as a bad guy, who isn’t really that bad.
  • A bunch of decent character actors working around farming equipment.
  • Calling Heather Graham’s character an old whore.
  • Rotating crops mentioned as an idea over GMO seeds.
  • Windmills used for generating clean energy.

Things I don’t need to see:

  • Portraying the re-use of seeds as a crime.
  • An actor that thinks brooding and sex is moving forward in their profession.
  • Heather Graham committing adultery with a father, and then a son.
  • Wasting food by driving over it with a race car in a drunken rage.
  • Beating a rental car weakly with your cane.
  • An old man getting away with infidelity, like it just needs to be accepted.
  • Using GMO seeds and planting nothing but corn.
  • Chem-trails in the sky over windmills.
  • Cowardice.
  • Dennis Quaid’s inability to elevate material.

There is something very sad about Dennis Quaid to me.  When he first hit it big, with Breaking Away, there seemed nothing that could get in the way of his winning smile.  His career was littered with minor hits that made less than expected and just 3 movies that made more than $100 million in the U.S..  One of them, Traffic, was an Oscar-winning ensemble piece in which he played a minor role.  The others (Day After Tomorrow, G.I. Joe Rise of the Cobra) were special effects extravaganzas that had less to do with acting than franchise capabilities.  There are a couple of other Disney films (The Parent Trap, Yours, Mine and Ours) and a Julia Roberts vehicle (Something to Talk About).

The saddest point in his career is what could have been the high point: Wyatt Earp.  His performance as Doc Holliday was really very good.  Unfortunately, it was preceded earlier in the year by Val Kilmer’s classic approach (“I’ll be your Huckleberry”) in Tombstone.  Were it not for the shadow cast on his performance, maybe there would have been more prospects for success.  It’s hard to think of a more memorable performance than his Jim Morris from The Rookie.

Now his career consists of many forgettable roles in films like The WordsPlaying for Keeps, Movie 43 and What To Expect When You’re Expecting.  No, I did not remember that he was in that last one, either.  In this film, we have him flashing what used to be considered a winning smile, only now it feels so desperate as to fill one with melancholy.  Giving his character a dose of slime of  cheating and cowardice might be a welcome thing for many actors.  On Quaid, it just feels like a burden too big to bear.

As for Efron, I give him credit for trying.  That said, this one does not have much going for it.  Director/Writer Bahrani shows none of the talent here that got him noticed for Chop Shop back in 2007.  This is just another little man against corporations movie that could have been made back in the 1980’s, like End of the Line.  Only this film lacks characters with virtue.

It’s getting harder to appreciate Quaid these days.  I  wanted him to succeed for the longest time.  I still do.  Efron, too.  This movie does not succeed.

(**1/2 out of *****)

 

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