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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

May 12, 2013

At Any Price Review: Zac Efron'S Matinee Idol Good Looks Can'T Save The Movie

SINCE IT stars matinee idol Zac Efron, you’d think “At Any Price” is a romantic film like his last one, “The Lucky One”. But it turns out it’s not even like your typical escapist Hollywood movie set in some big city like New York or Los Angeles. It’s a serious drama about real people (farmers) and set in the American Heartland. Dennis Quaid is Henry Whipple, a successful Iowan farmer who inherited the farm from his own ancestors, but none of his two sons now want to follow in his footsteps. His eldest, Grant (Patrick Stevens), is more interested in climbing mountains in Argentina. The younger, Dean (Zac Efron), aspires to be a champion car racer. Whipple also distributes genetically modified and patented grain seeds from a big company. Trouble begins when government agents investigate Whipple for alleged “seed washing”, meaning, he collects the seeds left after harvesting and wash them to be resold as naturally grown, which is illegal.

Meantime, Zac’s dream of being a top racer is shattered when he gets injured in a race. He becomes bitter and moody, leading to a fight with guy that ends in murder.

We thought the movie would be some sort of a modern Shakespearean tragedy, what with both dad and son having an affair with the some woman, Heather Graham. But the script is badly written and fails to sustain our interest. To top it all, both Dennis and Zac lack credibility in their respective roles and fail to get our sympathy. Ironically, a newcomer, Maika Monroe, shows more depth than them and nearly steals the film as Cadence, Zac’s girlfriend who he suddenly dumps.

The film obviously aspires to be a drama about serious issues like morality, capitalism and a flawed family in the American Midwest. Their national anthem, “Star Spangled Banner”, is even played in full in one scene. But sadly, Iranian-American Director Ramin Bahrani is not well equipped enough to pull it off convincingly. We just can’t take it that someone committed a crime, aided and abetted by a family member who covers it up, and they get away with it, with the aggrieved parties not getting any justice at all.