Wednesday, November 27, 2013

At Any Price - The Moral Corruption of the American Dream

Have you ever gone for a slow drive in the cornfields of middle America in the warm sun of late summer? Do you remember how it felt? Away from the big city and the rush of modern life, there among the green side banks and golden husks and blue skies, didn't it feel just a little like this was how life was really meant to be? Didn't it feel almost perfect?
Ramin Bahrani's "At Any Price" takes you back to that place in this slow burn film about the American Dream and the uncompromising pursuit of it.
Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) is an Iowa farmer raised with an "expand or die" mindset in an ever-shrinking, highly controlled and highly competitive market. Meanwhile and much to his chagrin, Henry's two sons, Dean and Grant, are chasing their own dreams - away from the cornfields. Determined to expand the farm for his sons, Henry must eventually choose how much he is willing to pay and how much he is willing to lose to keep that dream alive for him and his sons.

There are some very solid performances from the lead actors Dennis Quaid, Zac Effron and Kim Dickens but for me the star of the show is Bahrani's modern parable itself that highlights how morally corrupt everyone has become in chasing the American Dream and not only morally corrupt but emotionally bankrupt too. Through infidelity, heartache and break up, through corruption and criminal investigation and even through murder, not one tear is shed by the Whipple family. It's as if Bahrani is suggesting America itself is past feeling. Sure we get angry, and greedy and still plenty of lust but when it comes to guilt or compassion or conscience we are on empty.

I'll leave it to you what lessons and conclusions you think Bahrani wants us to draw from this little gem, but it is no coincidence that the one family member who ends up deserting the cornfields and the American Dream at home, is the one who finds it travelling the globe.

A surprisingly good movie that is well worth watching.

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