The 38-year-old filmmaker Ramin Bahrani has emerged as one of the most exciting artists on the cinema scene in recent years, with his mesmerizing debut film, “Man Push Cart,” and then with “Chop Shop” and “Goodbye Solo.” Perfecting an intimately observant camera and spontaneous style, Bahrani has become the leading voice within a movement of American neo-realist filmmakers who have injected new energy, urgency and poetics into a narrative form that easily can suffer from sloppiness and pretension.
With “At Any Price,” Bahrani abandons the style he helped rejuvenate, with mixed results. The story of an Iowa farm family caught up in a matrix of dire financial pressure, hegemonic agribusiness, genetic engineering and the drama of ambition and personal deception, “At Any Price” looks and feels more classical and less immediate than Bahrani’s past works, hewing to a conventional structure that feels both overworked and undercooked. With Dennis Quaid delivering a hysterically hectoring turn as the over-extended family farmer at the story’s core, “At Any Price” clearly reflects Bahrani’s compassion and sympathy for even the most troubling contradictions that plague the modern-day Midwest. But the overlay of sweeping classical story points feels subtly inauthentic.