Saturday, 29 June 2013


An exceptionally troubling film, in that it exemplifies a talented director so distracted by the demands of the project they believe they're making that they can't see the project it has become. At Any Price nearly stopped my heart a couple of times: once when I realised that I wasn't imagining it, and it actually was as bad as I thought it was, and again when I realised that it wasn't going to recover. Amid pallidly pretty shots of Iowa countryside set to a bland ambient score, a story about business, family, community, agriculture - big themes in small towns. Ramin Bahrani's slant on these themes slots in snugly with most other films' - he seems daunted by the detours he must take in order to tailor a new spin on such familiar tropes, and so sticks to the straight and narrow, and well-trodden path square in the middle of the road. The stereotypes who inhabit Bahrani's tale are supposedly interesting because of the journeys which they are on, journeys which any fool could predict minute by minute, and this alarmingly predictable film allows them to go through the motions, with an earnestness that suggests Bahrani has faith in their potency, a blind faith, I have no doubt. Some cack-handed lite-action scenes mimic bad Saturday morning serials. The script is uncommonly curt and corny (not a pun, believe me), as if all the real dialogue were drained away and only trailer-ready soundbites were left in its wake, as characters distill entire lives into ten seconds' screentime. Dennis Quaid gives a bizarre performance, overworked to the level of mania. At Any Price is also horribly sexist, depicting women as sex objects or facilitating housewives and parents. They serve and support their men, and are occasionally heard to offer up a calming platitude or provide a piece of ass. They have no desires of their own. They do not participate in business. This may be an accurate reflection of the world of small corn businesses in the Midwest, but I distrust the narrative outlook of a filmmaker who can choose to dedicate their film to such a topic and not see an egregious issue therein.