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|Index||165 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Director Richard Linklater gives us three groups of characters the
corporate clones,the cattlemen and the meat packers, with some
angst-ridden adolescents thrown into the loosely-linked ensemble piece.
But when those end credits roll, one felt as if they had consumed a ton
of carbohydrates,and skipped the essential protein. Perhaps it was too
ambitious of an endeavor with too much to tell, to expose, to pound
home, to illuminate rapid images racing past us like the subliminal
imagery used to train assassins in Alan J. Pakula's THE PARALLAX VIEW
(1974), like those fevered images shooting through Rod Steiger's mind
in Sidney Lumet's THE PAWNBROKER (1964). What Linklater missed out on
was the poignant Hispanic drama illustrated in John Sayles' LONE STAR
(1996), or perhaps the acerbic cutting wit found in Jason Reitman's
THANK YOU FOR SMOKING(2005), or even the loopy satire found in Michael
Spurlock's SUPER SIZE ME (2004).
By in large the acting was very good. Greg Kinnear created the corporate brain stormer, Don Anderson, who had the thankless job of traveling to Cody, Colorado to "investigate" the goings on at the primary meat packing plant where his company, MICKEY'S, procured their entire hamburger product; to look into the serious allegations that too much fecal matter was getting into their meat. The problem was no one clued Don into the fact that such forays are supposed to be titular, not actual. He was supposed to take the carefully modulated "tour" of the facility and come home with a clean report exonerating the management, and extolling the virtues of their pristine plant. Instead he actually started talking to folks, and the "truth" he began to hear, and the reality of the situation weighed heavily on him. But caught in the middle, he soon realized that an accurate report on the situation would cost him his job, and possibly his livelihood. So he backed off, and it was implied he "white-washed" the whole affair. Kinnear was good in the part, but he did not bring more to it than he needed. His minimalist lackluster style worked for the character, but we have seen it from him so often before with the two exceptions of the gay character he played in GOOD AS IT GETS (1997), and when he played Bob Crane in Paul Schrader's AUTO FOCUS (2002).
Kinnear shared scenes with Kris Kristofferson, as a straight-talking wealthy cattle rancher, and Bruce Willis as a blue-collared corporate middle man. These big name cameos allowed some of Linklater's political rhetoric to be espoused. Kristofferson underplayed his plain-folks cattleman wonderfully. Willis sat there munching a burger and swilling a beer, in a quietly menacing fearsome manner. As a 30-year veteran in the "meat business", Willis gleefully drove the corporate hard-line wooden stake right into the middle of Kinnear's chest. One immediately felt that Willis was capable of anything, from intrigue to violence, to discourage any further investigation on Kinnear's part. Kinnear backed off quickly, feeling vulnerable, paranoid, and respectful of his "corporate leash".
Plot thread II dealt with a group of immigrant Mexicans that had been smuggled over the border, then up through New Mexico to Colorado. Wilmer Valderrama (THAT 70'S SHOW), and the lovely Catalina Sandino Moreno, MARIA: FULL OF GRACE (2004), played the two primary characters in the Hispanic group. How these vulnerable, needy newcomers were manipulated first by the border coyotes, like Luis Guzman, and then the gringo "Bosses", like the sexist mean-spirited meat packing foreman, Bobby Cannavale (whose performance was so convincing I would have been willing to go to Cody and look for this bastard with a baseball bat), became the primary grist of the second half of the film.
But like a rich meringue topping, a third plot thread was woven into the mosaic the younger generation. This group was spearheaded by the perky Ashley Johnson as Amber, an intelligent teen who dreamed of escaping the confines of Cody, but in the meantime was stuck behind the counter at Mickey's. She lived with a single mother, Patricia Arquette, who had settled into the mid-life malaise of that place, who dated lots of men, drank too much, and didn't give her daughter much to aspire to. Only her wayward uncle, played by Ethan Hawke in another of those several brief cameos, reinforced her resolve, and helped her to see beyond the rut she inhabited; enabling her to shift from servitude to some form of activism. Avrial Lavigne, the singer, was a bit unimpressive as a blond cu-tie in the activist's cell. Paul Dano, from LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006), played the part of an arrogant, obnoxious, and petulant punk very effectively. An eon ago, when I too was on the management team of two separate fast food giants, employees like him were prevalent. I, to some extent, empathized with the Mickey's manager, Esai Morales.
The last part of the film was the most graphic, as we were walked behind the facade into the area of the slaughter chutes and the killing rooms, cattle being shot in the heads with stun guns, the steaming gut tables, and the cutting of cattle's throats to a pounding Southwest beat with thick bovine blood gushing into ankle-deep rivulets, and with blood gorged rats scurrying out from within and beneath the machines. FAST FOOD NATION was a work of conscience obviously not a "commercial venture". It will be seen by the smaller audiences in the art houses. It will probably not be seen much out in the mall mega-theaters. I would rate this film at 4 stars, primarily for its earnest attempt to tackle important issues, and along the way providing us with some above average entertainment.
Glenn Buttkus 2006
I will be frank with you; you will almost certainly want nothing to do with a fast food burger after you see this movie. Unless you enjoy feces in your meat or knowing that innocent Mexicans are being cruelly exploited to make your burger. The reckless treatment of the food by the restaurant staff may even be plenty to turn you off. The movie overall isn't the most well directed, but it more than gets its point across. The characters lives mesh together in a depressing charade of greed, desperation, and misguided attempts at animal liberation. The cinematography is adequate and is to be expected for a documentary. The acting of the cast isn't magnificent, but it suites the film well enough. In the final analysis, you will know how they can make a burger for 99 cents.
Who are these actors? I have never seen these actor's and thought that
they were both particularly strong:
1. The manager of the Mickey's restaurant.
2. The tall man from of the meat plant in the scene at the hospital with the translator when they say that Raul was on drugs during the accident.
Also how good was Bruce Willis? He really hit it out of the park. Him and Kinnear had a really nice scene. It was nice to let those two guys go and not cut out of the scene too early. Really strong, everyone was good, I question the casting of Avril Lavene, do we really need to see how bad she can be? Stick to the bad pop songs and stay out of the movies Avril!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It wouldn't take much to turn me into a vegetarian. I watched this
movie on TV the night before the announcement of the largest meat
recall in US history, and I'm beginning to wonder if the fates aren't
trying to tell me something? Poor hygiene, worker exploitation and
animal abuse, were all laid out here on film, and then on the broadcast
news next morning. Hmmm.
But while the message of this film is thought provoking and needed, the movie itself is a little disappointing. (And no, I haven't read the book, although I know I should.) It views like too much of a political tract and too little like a good drama. That may make it very worthy but it immediately limits who will bother watching it, and I suspect that mostly Fast Food Nation is preaching to the converted. The goodies are all too good. The baddies are all too bad. It could have done with more nuance, life is rarely quite so black and white. Famous names pop up from time to time, (Bruce Willis, Avril Lavigne etc), no doubt getting some 'right-on' credibility for doing their bit for the cause at minimum wage, but it would have worked better with a cast of unknowns. It's distracting to see a political movie degenerate into an "Oh look there's .." movie.
This is very much an ensemble piece, following the lives of a group of illegal immigrants from Mexico who go to work in and around a slaughter house and meat packing plant in Colorado. Alongside the migrants we see the school kids who work the local fast food joint where much of the meat ends up in cheap burgers, the promotions man from fast food HQ in New York who is sent to investigate an outbreak of e coli sourced to the plant, and a particularly nasty plant supervisor who extracts sex from the women as the price of earning a living wage.
Everyone is just trying to do their job and earn a living of course, but in doing so they inadvertently manage to create an unsafe, exploitative and abusive system both for the people who work in it and the poor dumb animals who get eaten. The female nudity (and nudity of either gender in film is not something I normally have a problem with) was maybe a bit gratuitous in this case. It added little to the story line. We know the slimy supervisor sleeps with the women. We didn't need to see their breasts to believe it. Alongside the images of the skinned cattle, it seemed heavy handed.
What the film perhaps doesn't emphasise enough, in my opinion, is that this is all being done to produce cheap food, which is, unfortunately what much of the country wants. Ask people if they want humanely produced meat and of course they will say yes. Ask them if they will pay extra for it, and again most will say yes. Then follow them around a supermarket, and watch how many actually put their money where their mouth is. Fast Food nation is a good idea inadequately realized on screen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
John Sayles he is not, but this sure was starting to feel like a John
Sayles movie. I must say I went in with low expectations since a lot of
the critics I tend to agree with trashed this film, but I was
pleasantly surprised. Yes, it was a bit labored around the edgesthe
Greg Kinner character didn't quite pull it off in my mind. But overall
it worked and I thought it got a lot better in the last half.
Where as some people complained that the characters were too many, and too little on screen, I think it really worked. The best was Bruce Willis. He is only in for 5min, but he totally pulled it off as a credible "bad guy" And what a great bad guy he was. Not the evil, "oh if they only figure out my evil master plan" type, but the embodiment of the neo-con hero If you are stupid enough not to see through the whole "all American beef patty" myth, then you deserve to "eat a bit of sh*t with your food" and that's OK, because "we will cook it so you don't know" If you are smart enough to see through the myth, then "you understand how the big nasty world works, and that's the way it is." He knows what the world is right now, and he is more than OK with it, he loves it and works hard to keep it that way And even with the brief appearance, he hits enough points and alludes to enough touchstones, that you know exactly who he isHe is what Krys Kristopherson talks about, the almost "sci fi like system" we allow ourselves to be penned intoand like the cows the college activist kids try to free, perhaps we too like the GM feed a bit too much to "escape our lot" even when the door is open to us. And this is where the film is a bit rough in the writingthe Ethan Hawke character is there to show us you can stand up to "the system", and even if you fail, its OKbetter to try and fail and have no regrets. Yes, I agree with it all but he came across a bit too much as the writer/director's soliloquy
In many ways, the film could be called "choice" as all the characters are confronted with choice. In the case of the migrant workers, their choice of course is the most starkabject poverty and misery in Mexico or less abject poverty and misery in America. Greg Kinner discovers the truth, and decides money and comfort are more important. Although Amber and her new found friends fail in their attempt to change things, they refuse to accept the choices they are given and consequently, there is hope for the future.
Richard Linklater's adaptation is a fictional dramatisation of the non-fiction novel. Playing out more as a narrative on the fast food industry than a critique, the film stops short of being an anti-capitalist diatribe in favour of a simple presentation of the concerns that society shares about such an industry. Following along similar lines to many of Linklater's other works it mixes his traditional free-flowing conversations with tinges of Maria Full Of Grace and Dazed And Confused. Containing some gruesome images the film's strength lies in the free-flowing conversations and the all too familiar ethical choices that the characters face and it's to Linklater's credit that he places more emphasis on the difficultly of these ethical choices than on the emotional impact they have on the characters. It is simple, there's little exploration of the bigger picture and there has been criticism that the character arcs don't interlink which I don't think matters, because the characters are just as much the meat going into the machine as the beef itself. Harshly underrated by the critics it could have been a three hour multi-layered epic that might have failed, instead it's a tight, empathic little film that's definitely worth a watch.
this film really opened my eyes to what I really do every time I walk into McDonalds or Burger King. It will never happen again. I loved this film, and it was so powerful, the ending nearly had me in tears as my eyes were glued to the screen. Bravo to Richard Linklater who is a outstanding director. If you eat a lot of cheeseburgers, watch this film. What humans do to cows is disgusting and HORRIBLY wrong and you will see in this film. this is the best documentary type film since Fahrenheit 9/11, I highly enjoyed it. I also highly recommend the film to anyone who works at a fast food restaurant, or eat a lot of it, or just to anyone, WATCH THIS MOVIE, it will change what you do every time you walk into a fast food place. I loved it.
Don't ask me why, but when I rented FFN I thought I was renting a comedy about the FF industry. Instead what I got was a gut wrenching portrayal of the people that work in the low paying, dangerous jobs of the fast food industry. Some people seem to be disappointed about this movie, their complaints seem to be about the movie they were expecting rather than the end product they got. I hope I keep seeing more of Catalina Sandino, she was great in Maria Full of Grace and here again she shines as the face of the illegal immigrant underclass. Lots of nice little supporting roles by well known faces. Every time I see Bruce Willis in a good movie I keep wondering why he keeps putting out the crap he usually puts out, because when given a serious role where he doesn't have to use that stupid smirk,he always steps up to the plate. But the bigger message of FFN is not only about the working conditions of the poor, but also about what we are becoming as a nation, or actually what we have already become, an economy where maximizing profits by squeezing every penny from every element of the production line (humans included) is the ultimate goal. Where almost unnoticed every workplace is becoming a sweat shop and the goal is to provide cheap products for a workforce that in the end is losing its economic might. China and India will not turn into America, America will turn into China and India, and the machine won't care. As K. Kristofferson's character says (paraphrasing here). 'The machine has taken over, it is a thing of science fiction, all that matters is pennies by the pound, pennies by the pound'.
I have to say that I was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed this film. After reading many harsh critical reviews, I expected to find a documentary style piece that exposes all the dirtiest secrets of the fast-food industry. Instead, I found a well-written, thought-provoking, character-driven dramatic movie that tells several interwoven stories while providing a provocative look at the politics of big business and economics. While its subject matter, the fast food industry, is skewered in this piece, its overall themes could be applied to almost any major industry in this country. It is mainly a look at culture and counter-culture in mainstream America, and how society and big business have shaped the way we think and go about our daily lives. The characters are all believable, everyday people who we can all relate to in some way, and most Americans, if they watched this film, could probably see themselves, or someone they know, in it. Overall, I thought it was a very good movie. Not excellent, but very good.
FAST FOOD NATION got such minimal response in the theater run that it
seemed to go straight to DVD. The PR for the film was such that it
appeared to be 'hilariously funny' (according to the DVD box cover) and
as such might just provide a bit of humor after a tumultuous day of
work. WRONG! This little film adapted by Richard Linklater from Eric
Schlosser's frightening book is agonizingly biting and insightful: if
you elect to watch it, be prepared for some ugly facts that may just
Don Henderson (Greg Kinnear) is a marketing strategist for 'Mickey's', a fast food chain that is highly successful in selling millions of 'The Big One' (the comparisons to the McDonald's Big Mac are not subtle!) and discovers that the meat patties have been found to grow E. coli in the lab! On an expedition to explore the validity of this problem he travels to Cody, Colorado to visit the plant that produces the meat patties for the entire national chain. And so the plethora of story lines begin: the film examines the illegal immigrants from south of the border brought in by coyotes, treated like dirt, and given jobs 'cleaning' the meat plant and working the food chopping lines and eventually the killing and slaughtering of the cattle whose housing conditions are filth personified; the teenage workers who people the Mickey's chain are shown to be discontent and equally capable of planning robberies as they are of attempting to free the soon-to-be-burgers cattle; the callous corporate types who cover the facts in favor of increasing monetary gain; the plant workers who abuse the immigrant workers in every way possible; the utter boredom of the populace of Cody and the resultant pacified response to the 'big problems' that seethe through their town. Yes, it is an expose of corruption on many levels, but the film doesn't stop there.
Linklater and Schlosser are careful to include the individuals caught up in the mess and those individuals run the gamut from the immigrants who only want to find a better way of life and will subject themselves to horrors both in their trek across the border and the mistreatment in the factories to find it, to the honest men of the corporations, the ranchers, and the teenagers who try to make a stand against the many problems that overwhelm them. And that is what makes the film so moving: it personalizes rather than generalizing.
The cast is huge and without exception excellent: Greg Kinnear, Kris Kristofferson, Bruce Willis, Bobby Cannavale, Ashley Johnson, Paul Dano, Patricia Arquette, Luis Guzmán, Wilmer Valderrama, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Ana Claudia Talancón, Juan Carlos Serrán, Armando Hernández, Esai Morales, Ethan Hawke, Avril Lavigne...the cast just goes on and on. Be ready for some horrendously brutal scenes not only in the killing and cutting lines but in the sexual abuses equally as tragic. This is a film that should affect the viewer, and while it is overly long at almost two hours, it is as pungent a social comment as has been made. Grady Harp
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