Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Fast Food Nation (Richard Linklater, 2006)

Fast Food Nation, the book published in 2001, is one of my all-time favorites. I think Eric Schlosser is a great writer in the tradition of the Upton Sinclair school of muck-raking. So I was intrigued about Richard Linklater's adaptation of the book (the screenplay was written by Schlosser and Linklater together) as a fictional story, rather than a non-fictional documentary. While there are the foreseeable problems, this is a pretty effective movie with some really strong performances.

There are about five stories in the film, all revolving around the Mickey's restaurant and the products that go into making their new Big One burger. Greg Kinnear is the Mickey's executive who came up with the Big One, and who is now assigned to go to the meat packing plant where the Big One patties are made to investigate the high percentage of, ahem, fecal matter in the meat. Amber (Ashley Johnson) is a high schooler who has to work at Mickey's to support herself and her mother, but who undergoes a crisis of conscience when she learns facts about the environmental and humanitarian effects of Mickey's. Catalina Sandino Moreno, Wilmer Valderrama, and Ana Claudia Talancon are Mexicans who recently illegally crossed the border and thus are forced to work in the meat packing plant, and also get involved with meth and sexual harrassment on the part of the girls' manager at the plant. So there are plenty of social issues to be dealt with in the film, and sometimes it does feel like the movie is overstuffed with Schlosser's pet causes. Some smaller characters, such as Ethan Hawke as Amber's uncle and Kris Kristofferson as a rancher who shows Greg Kinnear the darker side of the meat packing industry, are used as mouthpieces to get the facts about these issues across through vaguely awkward monologues.

But Johnson and Moreno especially give great performances as young women who are in similar, yet widely divergent situations: both need the jobs that they have to support themselves, even though they hate them. The interesting part of the film comes when Johnson can quit her job, while Moreno can't. In this way, it's a liberal fairy tale and nightmare, all at once: the upper/middle-class whites (Johnson, Kinnear) can afford to speak their consciences, even though it means losing their jobs, but the illegal immigrants are without a voice in this country, even though their jobs might be infinitely more dangerous and ethically wrong.

The IMDB boards are, predictably, crazy over this film - vegans vs. meat eaters, left vs. right, all over the map, people are fighting about this film. While some call this film liberal propaganda, I think it's a refreshing, fictional film that forces us to take a closer look at what we eat and what the cost is. But during the cow slaughterhouse scenes (and all the discussion of the shit in meat), all I could think was I'm so glad I'm a vegetarian.


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Comments on "Fast Food Nation (Richard Linklater, 2006)"


Anonymous patrick said ... (4:53 PM) : 

just saw Fast Food Nation, it's an impactful flick to say the least... earlier today i passed up a sausage mcmuffin because of it. Evidently it is worth passing up fast food for more than health reasons.


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