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When I initially saw the trailer, this looked to be a dark humored
satire, much like Thank You for Smoking. It isn't. It actually is not
funny at all. The movie completely blindsided me and not entirely in a
negative way. It was more surprise than anything. It is still nice to
see that a movie is still capable of this.
The movie seems to be less about fast food itself and more about the culture that spawned it. It is full of Magnolia-like interactions, albeit more possible since it takes place in Cody, Colorado (and not LA). It seems to be some sort of class study as we see how each level lives (the executive class, Dirty Jobs type people, the immigrants and even the cows). Each has some role to place in this fast food based hierarchy. Richard Linklater creates an adequate movie that tries to show the intricacies and gray areas associated with America. It displays this through some generic/stereotypical relations. It tries to say something or make us aware, yet in the end I have no clue if there was even a message at all. About the only message I got is that things have become so intertwined that it would be easier to cut off live flesh and start anew, than to try and fix whatever was in place already. Someone once said I want to eat the meat and not meet the cow.
There is a particularly brutal scene at the end where they show the death and dismemberment of the cattle. This is extremely graphic. Unless you have seen any of the Faces of Death or the features on the Eyes Without a Face DVD, this will probably be very graphic (and looks quite real).
Its nice to see Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) and Maria Full of Grace's Catalina Sandino Moreno. They seem to be somewhat typecast at this point. I guess it takes a while. John Leguizamo had a funny sketch how Latinos would always be typecast as drug dealers and junkies. I would just rent this one.
Eric Schlosser's bestseller "Fast Food Nation" was Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" for the end of the twentieth century, and not necessarily something that was destined for the big screen in a fictionalized form. Nonetheless Richard Linklater has attempted to do just that with his 2006 film "Fast Food Nation", which attempts to bridge the gap between several seemingly disparate stories that touch on topics of conformity, and namely the quest the meat takes behind those tasty fast food burgers. Linklater has assembled a cast full of familiar indie faces, which are there mainly to convey a sizable message about people in America. Unfortunately Linklater chooses to convey this message with such a heavy hand as to have the film flow like a bus ride full of talented faces that just happens to hit deep pot holes every seven minutes or so. The stilted documentary that could have been is educationally forced, and the content of the occasionally gripping narrative is frequently unpleasant, especially an unnecessary and exploitative scene in a slaughterhouse. "Fast Food Nation" is quite a disappointment for a filmmaker as recognizably talented and intelligent as Richard Linklater, whose previous work has run the gamut from the high IQ philosophical cartoon "Waking Life", to the intimate date movie "Before Sunrise", to the funny pot promotion flick "Dazed & Confused", to the sharp remake of "The Bad News Bears". Linklater seems incapable of dealing with the largest hurdle of this endeavor: there is simply too much going on, whether it's about Mexican immigration, teenage revolutionaries, angry fast food workers, greedy corporations, ranchers who hold onto frontier ideals, slimy meat packaging supervisors, stubborn cattle, or any number of other things thrown at the audience during the course of two hours. "Fast Food Nation" has attempted to be the "Traffic" (Soderbergh, 2000) of the fast food industry, and has unfortunately fallen short with a lot of interesting, but poorly crafted material.
Don Anderson is head of marketing for fast food chain Mickey's who is
currently residing over strong sales of flagship product The Big One.
When word gets out that a college project has identified high levels of
faecal material within a frozen burger, Anderson gets on it to get to
the bottom of it and prepare to deal if anything kicks off in the
media. Meanwhile sisters Sylvia and Coco smuggle themselves across the
border with a party of others, heading to a single room in a motel to
await work at the local meat packing plant. At the same time, teenager
Amber works the counter at the local branch of Mickey's and is
beginning to feel that something is not right.
Like many others, I found the book Fast Food Nation to be a compelling read, one that was sufficient to convince me to stop eating junk food (although coincidentally a terrible bout of food-poisoning from a certain chicken place meant that the attraction of the smell was lost to me forever). It wasn't enough to turn me vegetarian but it was impacting in its exposé of safety risks, worker rights, health concerns and so on. In bringing this book to the screen, the choice was made to do it as a work of fiction and take the story structure done in films like Traffic and Syriana, where we see a topic from many views, all coming together in one overall message or point. Having seen this approach produce some strong films, I was fine with this and not at all snooty about it not being a documentary. However, the problem I had with it is that it doesn't make this transition in a success way.
The problem is not with the jump from non-fiction to fiction but rather the way it is done. You see, instead of hanging together really well and brining the viewer to the inevitable conclusion, the film just seems to follow three threads one of them sort of has an end but the other two fizzle away into nothing. This happens while the three also remain particularly separate from one another and never come together to form the message that the film is trying to deliver. In this regard actually the film also falls down because it didn't impact me at all and seemed to be unsure of quite what it was saying on various topics. The issue of working conditions is not really addressed in a way that is shocking and the film appears to rely on the gore of the kill floor to make the point but those who are surprised by the unpleasantness of the process are perhaps being a bit naïve. Likewise in the area of marketing, the film doesn't really do much to make a point about the tactics and compromises made by these corporations I expected more teeth, as it is it just fizzles away. These failures were across the board and I was surprised by just how weak it appeared in regards structure, delivery and hammering home the point. It is weakened further by making the points it does make in a very clumsy and hand-wringing fashion and it certainly never gets close to challenging the audience or revealing something about the bigger the picture.
You can see what the film could have been if you read the book and certainly the cast appeared to have been hoping for much more, given the names involved. Kinnear, Guzmán, Arquette, Willis, Kristofferson, Hawke and Lavigne all turn up and give reasonable performances, it is just a shame that the material doesn't justify them bothering. Moreno and Talancón are good in their roles and are the only people who I genuinely felt something for as characters they did well to produce the vulnerability of pretty young women in their position, open to exploitation and forced to make at least some compromises to get by. Linklater's direction of the script he co-wrote is disappointing and it is hard to put the blame too far from his door.
Overall then an interesting enough film but one that is impossible to look passed the missed potential. Nothing really hangs together or comes together at the end. Threads are just forgotten without any real point made and, while one can understand why all the stars wanted to support this film, it is a shame that the material lets them down at every turn. Interesting but is weak in every way that Schlosser's book was strong; my advice would be to read that instead.
There's sh*t in the burgers and a lot of it in some of these other
reviews (please don't yank my comments b/c of that). I think there's a
few people who missed the point and a few more who have trouble
watching something that isn't a mind numbing action film.
I wouldn't say this is a great movie but it gets the job done and hopefully leaves you craving more info on a business that doesn't receive much public notice beyond "red meat's not good for your health." Dun-dun-dun the MEAT INDUSTRY. This wasn't about fast food and it wasn't about illegal immigration or drugs. Kris Kristopherson and Bruce Willis were the prime characters in this one. Check out their scenes and that's all you need to see.
I'll probably get buried on page 15 of these reviews but here's a great current article (1/28/08) published in NY Times about the meat consumption and it's effects:(www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/weekinreview/27bittman.html).
After watching this movie it's very hard to pass by a fast food restaurant again without wondering were the food comes from. This movie delivers more than it promises, and therefore like "Super Size Me", it's a "must see" movie. It's shows without cuts that the truth is out there and that we cannot close our eyes to the wrong things that some companies are doing to the planet and the exploitation that men is practicing against each other. Some moments of the movie are hard to watch for it's crudity, but if this is the price, than OK, it's really worth paying. Congratulations for the wonderful job made by Lynklater, that has proved tons of versatility by directing this movie after delivering the cult movie "Before The Sunrise".
I liked this movie. I never read the book its based on, but Its about a
guy who works for the marketing department of a fast food chain called
Mickeys and they discover there's crap in the burgers. He is sent down
to Texas or somewhere to investigate. While hes there he gets a burger
in a Mickeys and one of the guys spits in his burger. We also follow a
bunch of Mexicans on a quest to go into America for a better life.
However they all get jobs in the meat factory and one guy loses a leg.
I thought it was a very good movie, and Avril Lavigne is in it too and
shes fairly hot.
Bruce Willis also makes an appearance as a guy who knows all about the industry and he gives us an insight into the hypocrisy of the industry. Greg Kinnear finely plays the unscrupulous marketing executive who is determined to just do his job and find out why there's crap in the burgers. In the end he fails.
In the end you see all the cows getting murdered and it was pretty shocking. You see all the heads with the skin peeled off and their horns hacked off
So for those reasons , I am giving it 8 stars.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Despite its attempt to bring via an ensemble and interlocked stories -- a narrative style that now seems to be the norm -- the horrors of an industry that relies on the killing of cows for their meat, FAST FOOD NATION arrives mainly D.O.A. It ceased to motivate me after its first third, and for a motion picture that lasts almost shy of two hours, watching this tedious story unfold was like climbing a very steep hill without functioning legs. I understand the message, by the way -- it's just that it's hammered into every fraction, every inch of its page, until very little is left and all I could do was say, "Well! Seeing that sunny picture of a cow getting chopped to pieces really made me want to skip that meatloaf I had planned on eating, didn't it?" (At least, the sight of a very macho Bobby Cannavale was worth the price of admission. A different kind of beef, so to speak, but one can dream....)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Eric Schlosser's landmark book "Fast Food Nation" seriously changed
common perceptions of fast food and led to a flood of similar books and
documentaries. Now the author, who co-wrote the script, has teamed with
director Richard Linklater and produced this compelling visualisation
of his findings.
It's not a documentary per se, but uses a fictional framework to explore very real issues. The film is packed with solid set-pieces and performances. The film's narrative strands are slightly jumbled and the scripts discussion of the politics of fast food occasionally inhibits genuine interaction between the characters, but this doesn't really matter too much as what is presented is interesting and provocative.
The first narrative stream introduces Don (Greg Kinnear), a marketing executive with Mickey's fast food chain who is sent to investigate claims of cattle manure cropping up the in the company's meat. The second follows Amber (Ashley Johnson), a bright high-schooler stuck in a dead-end job as a cashier at a Mickey's restaurant and a group of Mexican illegal immigrants, among them Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno), Coco (Ana Claudia) and Estaban (Juan Carlos Serran), who find work in the torrid conditions of a meat-packing plant...
The acting all-round here is excellent, particularly from the unknown actors playing the immigrants who deliver arguably the most moving performances and the scenes featuring them are memorably horrific (the scene where a man horribly injures himself cleaning the meat grinder, and the film's finale on the killing floor of the meat factory).
Greg Kinnear, whose character for a while seems almost an extension of Schlosser himself, is also excellent. Other standout roles include Linklater regular Ethan Hawke as Amber's free spirit uncle; Paul Dano as an idle, unscrupulous burger boy who dreams of robbing his restaurant; and singer Avril Lavigne as a student activist. Kris Kristofferson is also very moving as a rancher whose livelihood is threatened by advancing capitalism.
Best of all is Bruce Willis as a meat supplier who delivers the film's surprising message - "We have to eat a little s*** sometimes". He tempers any liberal tendencies of the movie with a heavy dose of realism and common sense.
The film is by no means a definitive look at the subject of fast food, but will hopefully pave the way for many more movies that expand on what has been presented here.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well, in the beginning, you see this fast food executive, Don Henderson
talking to the CEO of this major fast food store, Mickey's, about cow
feces is somehow 'finding it's way' into Mickey's burgers. So, Don has
to go to investigate this problem and takes a trip to the Mickey's
headquarters in Colorado, which is also where the Mickey's meat
supplier is located. Then, they cut to the illegal immigrant workers
trying to cross the boarder to 'have a better life'. The immigrants are
then all shoved into a van and taken to Colorado, to a small motel.
Where, all 15-20 of them share a room until they get jobs..The next
day, a few of them are taken to the meat packaging plant, to either
clean, the 'kill deck', separate the meat, or actually kill the cows.
Oh, and their supervisor is having sexual relations with all the
illegal immigrant women, and gets 'em hooked on drugs. Real nice
guy...Meanwhile, we cut to a local girl actually working at a Mickey's.
She doesn't like it, but thinks really, nothing's wrong with it...So,
we follow the injustices these people go through. During the movie
though, the girl working at Mickey's wises up, and finally quits. Smart
girl. Finally, at the end, we're treaded with seeing just how they
actually kill these innocent cows, and what they go through JUST to
I feel like saying I 'liked' it would be like saying I actually like watching animals being killed, and people stripped of all their dignity...Nonetheless, it is a real eye opener. I agree though, it does go hand-in-hand with 'Super Size Me', which was also an eye opener and a excellent film. I think everyone on the planet should see Fast Food Nation. Well, at least everyone in the U.S. Maybe then, we wouldn't have an obesity epidemic.
I have been reviewing a lot of films about current issues lately. I'm
not going to start comparing again, because I'm tired and I want to
look at the cinema as what it is one more time; an art. Political
films, mostly documentaries, are made every day, for people to become
aware of what's going on around them. Maybe they'll want to do
something after watching them and maybe not, but this is the only way
filmmakers express themselves and declare statements: by presenting
Richard Linklater's "Fast Food Nation" takes on the fast food business right from the first frame and believe me when I say it does it without mercy. Going through all the events that take place in Eric Schlosser's bestseller, the movie makes its accusations. What goes on so this can happen is a riveting and fulfilling experience charged with irony and sarcasm of the best kind of comedy, drama and even a little bit of romance; all backed by a flawless and melodramatic score (Friends of Dean Martinez). But I won't say anything about it.
Everything is done with art in "Fast Food Nation". Linklater's piece is not a documentary but a film and, although it has an intentional documentary feeling, it never forgets this. However, this doesn't make it less risky and brave, as the camera shows some really disgusting scenes of how things are like. There's an urgent need on letting it all out, evidenced in every aspect of the picture. But Linklater, although taking in a new type of material and way of working, never fails to remind us of his own style.
One of the best contemporary directors out there, Linklater has all of the positive adjectives: original, innovative, inventive, daring, diverse and assured. Not to mention he is also a writer and a very witty one. Written by himself and Schlosser, the "Fast Food Nation" script hits all the right notes by being sharp and controversial but also understandable and thought provoking. As is also usual with him, the conversations between the characters flow naturally.
An experienced director of little characters in focused places, Linklater goes large with this film, giving us a big number of characters in different places whiting the same story. Don't get it wrong: this is not the "Babel" and "Crash" connected storyline; it's different. And Linklater doesn't fail at the task of managing all these multiple characters, proving his direction of actors to be intact with a cast of independent, unknown, mainstream and even resuscitated performers.
Linklater's regular Ethan Hawke is on fire in one of his smallest appearances of this decade, delivering the strongest beliefs of the film. The same happens with Bruce Willis, while Kris Kristofferson and Patricia Arquette are more laid-back but not less confident. Wilmer Valderrama doesn't get the Mexican accent, but Catalina Sandino Moreno does and shines with dramatic power. Bobby Cannavale takes on the performance of his career and Luis Guzman is charming as he brings some hardly accomplished Spanish talking to the mix. Paul Dano is still on the right track, and Ashley Johnson gives a relaxed and impressive portrayal; I have always been waiting to see her after "What Women Want". I want to mention that Avril Lavigne is also in the mix, as well as a couple of convincing young actors I hadn't seen before.
Last but not least, there's always a good guy. He has to be there, watching everything going wrong and wanting to make it right. This is Don Anderson, the character that drives the film, played by Greg Kinnear with an intelligence so precise and peculiar only he can achieve. I want to take this chance to mention that I think his performance in "Little Miss Sunshine" was fantastically understated and superb and that I consider it one of the most underestimated of this decade; more than Paul Giamatti's Harvey Pekar in "American Splendor".
Not only Linklater passes the test with the wider scenario, but he also accomplishes some of the bests shots of his career, with a perfectly placed number of cameras displayed for each scene, a couple of beautiful long-distance shots plus completely intense and haunting close-ups.
If I had to choose one word to describe "Fast Food Nation", it would undoubtedly be 'brutal'. The other day I had to write an essay about young children using mobile phones, saying if I agreed or not. I don't agree, but I remember putting: "It doesn't matter what we think, the industry has already proved to be bigger than us; and we can't do anything about it".
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