At Any Price Venice Review & Press Conference

Posted 10 years ago by myetvmedia

Ramin Bahrani’s acute, but sometimes spotty tale “At Any Price” is a powerful, hubris filled, extended parable. As an American story about families – father-son, brother-brother, husband – wife — it echoes the works of Arthur Miller (Death of A Salesman, The Price) and Sam Shepard (Paris Texas, Buried Child).

Tales of a son reluctant to take on his father’s occupation is as old as the Greeks and Romans.  They created a mythical literature where youth were instructed in the virtue of filial obedience, which in reality served to mask patriarchal shame. During most of the last century a young man made his way in the world by rejecting his father’s world and searching for his own. In RaminBahrani’s American mid-west as depicted in At Any Price, following the Patriarch and his values are under threat.  What happens when those values are themselves compromised, and where “winning” at any price becomes the Patriarchal objective.

In the opening sequence, Henry Whipple played with an uncanny authenticity by Dennis Quaid rattles off a seemingly harmless proverb to his son Dean (Zac Efron), “…a man who wants is a man who lives”. Bahrani sets the stage for a series of questions explicit in the title and painfully expressed in the Whipple family conflicts. Whipple is under threat of losing his farming empire (some 3700 acres) due to certain indiscretions with his handling of GMO’s (genetically modified organisms – seeds).

Each of the characters are morally challenged by the excess of their wants: Dean is driven by a singular ambition for NASCAR driving glory; Henry is incapable of being “satisfied with what’s in front of him”, punctuated by his infidelity with the town’s easy lay Meredith Crown (Heather Graham), more acreage, more money, more legacy; his wife Irene’s (Kim Dickens) fidelity despite Henry’s infidelity to save her family, even to the point later in the narrative of complicity in a crime; and Cliff Whipple’s (Red West) undeterred ambition for legacy imprinted without reservation on his son Henry.

Dean pursues the dream of racing in NASCAR, “not to have to talk to you” , as he puts it to his father. For much the same reason, Henry’s  other son is off screwing Argentinian women and climbing mountains, his presence/absence palatable through a series of postcards. Bahrani cleverly has Henry Whipple roll out a red carpet in anticipation of his return, which of course is all done in vain. The red carpet reappears as a reminder of Henry’s failures as a father. Not surprisingly, his own retired and crusty father Cliff incessantly admonishes him with warnings about his loosening grip on the farm and the family legacy.

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At Any Price Venice Review & Press Conference

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Zac Efron at Venice Film Festival

Zac Efron on the Red Carpet

Maika Monroe on the Red Carpet

Maika Monroe at Venice Film Festival


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