What do we mean today when we refer to “all-American” ideals? What does it mean to be “all-American” in the new millennium? Auto racing has seemingly snuck into the ranks of heartland sports, possibly supplanting football, and farming, once a rural family venture, is now big business, which is all-American, right? And then there are the things we do to cover our tracks, to get and stay ahead. Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid), the current head of a multi-generational farm and seed business, finds himself in an epic struggle to maintain his place in this “all-American” world, one in serious transition.
His son Dean (Zac Efron) wants to race cars and has no interest in one day taking over the family enterprise. Why would he? He sees the crumbling façade that his father constantly puts forth, patched with lies and insincerity, and he imagines himself as better than that. But these two have far more in common that is rooted, in the end, in their very blood. Director Ramin Bahrani (who co-writes here with Hallie Elizabeth Newton) turns up the heat and vigorously stirs the melodramatic pot, allowing everything to bubble and spill over, making an “all-American” mess of things that never feels quite as dirty and desperate as it should. (R) Grade: C-