2 items from 2006
CANNES -- The great expose of the meat-packing industry was Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, his 1906 muckraking novel that shocked a nation and led to stricter federal controls over food safety. Eric Schlosser's 2001 Fast Food Nation not only confirmed that many meat safety issues remain unsolved but portrayed a country so addicted to grab-and-eat junk food that a fifth of its adolescents are obese and major health issues abound. Which is why Richard Linklater's curious attempt to make a narrative feature from that nonfiction book is so disappointing. Following up on Morgan Spurlock's wildly successful indie film Super Size Me, critics of fast food were hoping that a one-two punch would further raise consciousness among consumers and purveyors alike. Alas, Fast Food Nation is punchless.
What Linklater and Schlosser arrive at in their screenwriting collaboration is a collection of characters inhabiting or passing through the medium-sized Colorado berg of Cody, a kind of Our Town set in strip malls and fast-food joints that make Cody look like Anywhere USA with nothing distinctive about the place. That lack of definition extends, unfortunately, to the characters -- all are well-known types, but few are individuals.
It's hard to see this Fox Searchlight release having much impact in U.S. art houses, where our poor dietary habits, mistreatment of undocumented workers and cynical business practices are old news. The film plays better in Europe, where it says all the things people here love to hear about America.
The conceit of the movie has every character tangentially connected to fast food, from the executive from Mickey's fast-food restaurant chain (Greg Kinnear) sent to the town's big meat-packing plant to investigate contamination in the company's meat, to high schoolers who work at Mickey's (Ashley Johnson, Paul Dano), undocumented plant workers Catalina Sandino Moreno, Ana Claudia Talancon, Wilmer Valderrama), their coyote (Luis Guzman), the predatory line boss (Bobby Cannavale), a rancher (Kris Kristofferson), a meat buyer (Bruce Willis) and the young political activist Lou Taylor Pucci) willing to commit acts of eco-terrorism.
The movie never decides whether it wants to be The Jungle or Our Town. Characters' story lines keep intersecting the film's journalistic purpose, throwing off both ambitions.
Some characters take you out of the movie altogether. Linklater regular Ethan Hawke shows up as Johnson's uncle and for several scenes lectures her on the dead-end nature of life in Cody, none of which is necessary because his niece and the movie's viewers are already in agreement on that point.
Promising story lines disappear, like Kinnear's radicalized exec, who gets a lecture from Willis on the realities of Big Food Business in America and then drops out of the picture. And the movie's astonished examination of the exploitation of illegal aliens is hardly a revelation.
Nevertheless, the movie thumbs through the book's chapters with its cardboard characters. You get the sexual harassment of female plant workers, wretched plant conditions, a bloody industrial accident and -- in the movie's "money" shot saved for last -- the butchering of cows and ripping apart of carcasses to make more Mickey's burgers.
Yet the lives of these characters are too dull to compel interest, and the shock value of the documentary excursions has little impact other than perhaps to alter dinner plans after the movie.
FAST FOOD NATION
Fox Searchlight Pictures
A Recorded Picture Co. presentation in association with HanWay Films, Participant Prods. and BBC Films
Director: Richard Linklater
Screenwriters: Richard Linklater, Eric Schlosser
Based on the book by: Eric Schlosser
Producers: Jeremy Thomas, Malcolm MacLaren
Director of photography: Lee Daniel
Production designer: Bruce Curtis
Music: Friends of Dean Martinez
Costumes: Kari Perkins, Lee Hunsaker
Editor: Sandra Adair
Don: Greg Kinnear
Mike: Bobby Cannavale
Cindy: Patricia Arquette
Amber: Ashley Johnson
Tony: Esai Morales
Sylvia: Catalina Sandino Moreno
Paco: Lou Taylor Pucci
Coco: Ana Claudia Talancon
MPAA rating R
Running time -- 112 minutes »
28 February 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »
Julia Ormond is venturing into series television with CBS' drama pilot The Way, while Bobby Cannavale has landed the lead in Paul Reiser's untitled comedy pilot for CBS. Meanwhile, The West Wing co-star Bradley Whitford has joined Aaron Sorkin's new show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, with Sarah Paulson and Timothy Busfield also coming on board the NBC drama. In other pilot castings, Katheryn Winnick has landed a lead role opposite Matthew Lillard in Fox's drama pilot 13 Graves; Luis Guzman and Nicole Sullivan have joined Jeff Goldblum in NBC's drama Raines; Jarrad Paul, Rhea Seehorn and Conor Dubin have been cast in NBC's comedy The Singles Table; William Baldwin has been tapped to star opposite Joe Pantoliano in CBS' drama pilot Waterfront; and Rebecca Mader has landed one of the leads in Jerry Bruckheimer's drama for Fox, American Crime. In pilot pickups, the CW has ordered Split Decision, a drama from former Revolution Studios partner Todd Garner and Aaron Spelling, with Simon West in negotiations to direct. »
2 items from 2006
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