Fast Food Nation (2006)
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Review Date: November 14, 2006
Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Eric Schlosser, Richard Linklater
Producers: Malcolm McLaren, Jeremy Thomas
Catalina Sandino Moreno as Sylvia
Greg Kinnear as Don
Ethan Hawke as Pete
Interwoven characters living in Colorado all dealing with the fast food industry in various ways. Mexicans coming over the border, are stuck in meat-packing jobs with asshole bosses, a few local American kids (and Avril Lavigne) are pissed at the system and don’t like the way cows are treated and Greg Kinnear, as an executive from a very popular fast-food chain, is sent to this part of Americana to check up on their meat ingredients. Word on the street is that they might include crap. The knocking of fast-food ensues and so do yawns.
As seen at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival

I’m not sure if writer/director Richard Linklater intended this film to come off like a documentary, but I suspect he did as even his camera seemed to be moving about during most of the scenes, suggesting that we are all voyeurs into the somewhat interrelated lives of all these fast-food related people. Unfortunately, none of the stories in the film are interesting (except one), the ultimate lack of connection between them all is surprising and worst of all, it all just felt like a school lesson to me, taught by a condescending know-it-all. I wasn’t entertained by this film, I wasn’t engaged by this film and I definitely did not learn anything from this film, as I imagine it was trying to teach me something. Junk food is made of crap. No fuckin’ way!?! Call the friggin’ cavalry…I never knew that! Next you’re gonna tell me that smoking kills. Also, Americans take advantage of foreign workers who work under the table. Again…holy shit! Who knew!? But for me, the film’s final act clinched its preachy nature as Linklater flirts around a meat-packing plant throughout the movie, but goes “all out” in its final frames with actual shots of cows being zapped in the brain, chopped up, bloodied out and massacred into bite-size pieces. Subtle, eh? Pretty disgusting actually, and unless you can’t make your points about meat being bad in a more “artistic” manner, I will have to deduce that this sensationalistic approach is the only way that Linklater believed that the audience might be affected (by the way, if he’s not a vegetarian in real life, I’ll be quite surprised).

Ultimately though, I wasn’t affected, in fact, I was offended as I didn’t check into this film believing it to be a lesson plan from the PETA. Furthermore, the film’s progression and introduction/disappearance of characters was done in such a way that we barely got to know anybody (a cast filled with a bunch of “check me out names” including small parts from people like Bruce Willis, Ethan Hawke and Avril Lavigne?), and even if we did, none of them were particularly developed. Greg Kinnear’s character was the oddest of the bunch, as we spent the first half of the movie following him around, and never really see him again after that. Odd. So why am I giving it even this high a rating? That’s easy…the actors! I liked most of the actors and their characterizations were interesting enough to keep me tuned in, despite the preachy nature of the screenplay and the jumbled approach to all of the stories. Specifically, I thought the lovely Catalina Sandino Moreno (call me!) confirmed that she was worthy of that Oscar nomination back in 2004, and even Fez (aka Wilmer Valderrama) was alright. If they had made the entire film about her plight, I’m sure that it would have worked much better. How Kinnear’s slow-moving realization that there is “bad stuff” in fast food meat became the film’s focal point, is beyond me!

Finally, I guess the film’s final freeze-frame shot was supposed to be an indictment of some of what is wrong with America, but the only thing that it made me feel was 1) “This is pretty pretentious” and 2) if you don’t like the country so much, why don’t you just stay in Mexico and if you don’t like how they produce meat over here, just don’t eat it, but don’t force your shit down my throat. In softer hands, this film might’ve been a decent satire or point of view, but under Linklater’s heavy-handed direction and bevy of uninteresting characters, it just didn’t fit into my Happy Meal.
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian
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