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Not as nauseating as a Big Mac
moutonbear2519 November 2006
FAST FOOD NATION Written by Eric Schlosser & Richard Linklater Directed by Richard Linklater

I've tried on a number of occasions to eliminate McDonald's from my diet. The first time I tried was a few years back, after reading Eric Schlosser's non-fiction work, FAST FOOD NATION. I remember going to buy fries for the last time before reading the chapter entitled, "Why the Fries Taste so Good." I had to go for that last fry before I could never look at them the same way again. I went for months without a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder with cheese but it didn't last. Eventually I succumbed to my cravings that persisted despite the time that had elapsed. I knew what I was doing was wrong but as I bit into my two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun, I conveniently forgot about all the chemicals in the meat, the subliminal advertising geared towards toddlers and the migrant, illegal workers in dangerous meat rendering factories that made my burger possible. No sooner had I had my last bite did my stomach twist into a tangled mess. The pain was both horrible and familiar. Unfortunately, Richard Linklater's narrative interpretation of Schlosser's novel is nowhere near as nauseating or as a big a turn-off as the feeling of a Big Mac sitting at the bottom of your stomach.

The decision to translate FAST FOOD NATION from a non-fiction work of in-depth investigative journalism into a narrative film is a bold one. I was apprehensive at first but Schlosser's involvement co-writing the screenplay with Linklater made me less so. Shaping facts into a story certainly humanizes the global implications of the fast food industry but if the narrative is not compelling then there isn't much of a point. FAST FOOD NATION tells different stories to show the wide reach of how many are affected by the fast food industry. Greg Kinnear plays Don Anderson, an advertising executive responsible for The Big One, the latest burger success at Mickey's, the fictional fast food chain at the center of the film. Don must investigate reports that there are significant traces of cow manure in the meat (Fun!). Ashley Johnson plays Amber, a teenage Mickey's employee who juggles school and work while she begins to see her role in the corporate machine that is waiting in her future. Wilmer Valderrama and Catalina Sandino Moreno play Raul and Sylvia, two Mexican illegal immigrants who have been brought into the United States specifically to work at the rendering plant that manufactures the millions of patties that become The Big One. Very little is revealed about the characters themselves as they are merely symbols for the bigger picture. Consequently, there is very little identification with the film. A film that is trying to tell everyone, "America … this is what you've become," needs the audience to feel like this is their America.

What FAST FOOD NATION best exemplifies is America's complacency with the progression of its society. The problems don't stop at Mickey's. The fast food industry is merely just one faceless industry that is driving the American people into hopeless futures. Kinnear's Don is a prime example. He has spent his life packaging products, feeding them to people the way they like it. All the while, he has also been feeding his convenient lies to himself as well. A successful burger comes at a cost and as he travels from his board room to the assembly line and begins speaking with people who don't have any stake in the production of The Big One, he understands that there are truths under his lies that he cannot go on ignoring. By the time we see him bite into his third burger, his apprehension to do so is rampant. Yet, he still takes that bite. This is what we do. We get fed a ton of information from different angles. The product pushers tell us how wonderful it is and the non-believers prove otherwise. Schlosser's book, which clearly details all the subtle atrocities the fast food industry unleashes into the fabric of America to make one more dollar at the expense of its loyal customers, is well researched and fact-checked. The flip side to the convenience of fast food, from obesity to the exploitation of underage employees, is being discussed by too many people and with increasing validity to be ignored. Yet millions still take that bite.

Linklater does not shy away from expressing his disappointment in the American people nor does he mince words about his lack of optimism relating to making change on the subject. Each character's story is brought to a close and none of them are any better for any of their efforts. Some end up exactly where they wanted not to. Some end up continuing to support the industry despite their newfound knowledge. All these choices are made to ensure money is still coming in, to ensure the American dream is still within reach. Even the youth of tomorrow fail at their attempts to affect the future. The attempt itself does show a trace of Linklater's hope, albeit it fleeting. Despite all this, Linkalter still wants to do his part. The last ten minutes of FAST FOOD NATION bring about some of the more gruesome footage found in the film. We finally get a tour of the "kill floor" at the rendering plant, with plenty of blood and dead cow to go around. The nausea comes too late in FAST FOOD NATION but you certainly won't be rushing for another burger any time soon.
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Narrative film on the fast food culture in the United States
swkidder17 October 2006
This is a difficult film to watch if you are as tired as I am of being ashamed of this country. But maybe, as the film itself says, "The bad guys win until they don't." So go and see it.

It's well done, with an excellent cast, a reasonable script, cinematography that is occasionally better than you wish it were, and excellent editing. It's a complex film that sets out to tell a number of stories that it believes are inextricably entwined... and succeeds pretty well in doing that. It deals with a number of themes and threads ... social, political, and "human stories" ... and connects them all to a process we have collectively enabled ... the high jacking of the food we eat as well as the culture and economy that should nurture and sustain us ... and instead leave us fat and still hungry.

Warning to those who love animals, other humans, and may not be sufficiently desensitized to violence and gore .... you will never eat a hamburger again after seeing this film. You might even go on to question chicken. And you will lose any illusions you might have cherished in the past about the extent to which the industry that sells us this crap goes on to affect the lives of people across the Americas.

You may not enjoy watching Fast Food Nation, but you should make the effort to see it. And, you should make it a point to take at least one person you love that has been eating this kind of junk. You will have done your good deed for the day ...
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A healthy dose of much needed reality
sviau8125 September 2006
This movie is a fast food chain's worst nightmare. The trans fats, chemicals and artificial flavors these corporations pump into their so-called "food" has been slowly killing a generation of children for long enough, and finally someone's come out with a film revealing the inner workings of this dishonest and dangerous industry. The imagery is compelling, with a convincing and talented cast. This is the payback fast food corporations have needed for a long time coming. Hopefully many will see this movie and walk away better educated in order to live a longer, happier, and most importantly, healthier life. Watch out for fast food industry propagandists posing as film critics in order to discredit this film, their future and income very well depends on the ignorance of the general population. (Cigarette corporations anyone?)
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An Optimistic In A Bleak World
MannyVarjak15 November 2006
I really like Richard Linklater, the director of Fast Food Nation, because no matter what pop culture, market research, or his distributors tell him he continues to make movies where people talk. I don't mean talk as in "Hasta la vista, baby," or some other cliché-ridden "isn't that clever" marketing jargon, but TALK, as in conversations; the kind that were common place before TV, the Internet, and X-Boxes.

In Fast Food Nation, the film's message is mainly delivered through words. Sure, there's sex, and violence, and even a special effect, but for Linklater's film to be truly affecting it requires the audience to listen. And if they do, they will be rewarded. It's a gamble that I hope will pay off because it's a story that we need to hear. And within his story is an underlying hope--or perhaps just blind faith--that an audience will watch a film about real people dealing with real issues.

There are no true good guys or bad guys in the film. In an interview with my friend, Denis Faye he says, "It's like, hey, everyone's doing their best in this world, you know?"

His characters, like all of us, are all flawed. The good aren't all good, nor the bad all bad, which is something mainstream movie goers, particularly in the USA, seem to have a problem with. Maybe it's because we don't watch movies to watch people in conflict because we get enough of that in our own life.

But to me, at least, this is a great statement of optimism and belief in our society; that we will, when given the choice, choose to listen, think, and make our own decisions. Even in a film that shows life to be pretty bleak, it's a very optimistic view of the world.
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The point of the film is that these issues ARE intertwined.
distraido16 November 2006
It's fascinating (and a bit frightening) that, of the people I've heard criticizing this film for not being "moving" enough, none seem to consider the possibility that this could be due to their own cynicism, jadedness, or other similar accumulations of scar tissue. Which are, of course, the very attitudes that allow the abuses depicted in the film to occur in the first place. Some say that Fast Food Nation takes on too many issues, but really it's about one thing: America. It asks us to look at how millions of us live and at the by-products of our living like this. Schlosser and Linklater, by presenting together the issues of fair wages, health, family, drug abuse, etc., give us the BIG picture. We can then have a close look, those of us who dare, at the details, reflect, and get to know our own feelings about it all.

You'd have to be a hardcore-serious skeptic not to revel in the sarcastic wisdom of the old rancher played brilliantly by Kris Kristofferson. Likewise, the family portrayed by Patricia Arquette, Ashley Johnson, and Ethan Hawke feels so genuine and loving, that anyone with a pulse ought to be attracted to the unspoken promise of their humility. All three of those actors give nuanced, subtle-yet-powerful performances. Luis Guzman's bit part is not meant to threaten or scare. It's humor in sleazy, but fairly harmless, smuggler's clothing. Worth mentioning is the palpably real character of "Mike", the meat packing plant supervisor played by Bobby Cannavale. His is yet another fine performance in an important, well-crafted, and thoroughly enjoyable movie.
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Mournful but true and compelling
davenj3 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this last night at a screening. Watching it was an interesting process. I went from finding it a little didactic (and comparing the border crossing scenes with the similar scenes in Ken Loach's "Bread and Roses") to slowly finding myself overwhelmed by the sheer sadness of it all.

I think there are some easy jokes and moments early on that seem unnecessary -- a kid spitting in a burger; an executive saying "there's sh*t in the meat" to explain the issue to any dummies who might be in the audience -- but as the film unfolds, all the characters get time to develop and unfold.

And as they do, I found myself feeling terrified for all of them. These are lives that don't make it to the screen often, except perhaps in Ken Loach movies. But what makes this film special is that Linklater is no Ken Loach. He doesn't artificially ramp up the drama of small lives. They have enough drama already.

One of my favorite details in the movie was the sound of Amber's car as she drives off to school. It sounds dangerously close to breaking down, and we know from watching her home life and work schedule what that will mean for her. "Fast Food Nation" is full of details like this.

Overall, the film allows the viewer to invest in all the characters at an unhurried pace. Which is what's truly compelling about it. The political message, while important, isn't what makes this cinema. If anything, it is the weaker aspect of the film. But the human stories are so strong, that it doesn't matter. At least to me. I just found myself very moved by this. Which is what I'm looking for in any film.
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This is how a Happy Meal gets made.
s-lott28 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Although I am no great fan of Linklater - Before Sunset bored me, and as I result I have never sought out his other work - the shorts and the buzz about this film convinced me that it was worth a look. I was expecting a wry, but probably informative look at the fast-food industry. What was on screen was something quite different indeed. A largely excellent cast filled a sprawling set of interconnected stories revolving around a meat factory in small-town Colorado. The main threads are pretty bleak ones - illegal Mexican immigrants see their American dreams dissolve into terrible jobs, poor housing and drug addiction; a marketing manager for an American fast-food corporation realises that his company is knowingly selling contaminated food, but resigns himself to going along with the deception in order to keep his job. The stand-out moments for me were two set-piece dialogues between Kinnear's manager and Kristofferson's rancher and Willis' meat buyer. The former's comments about the 'machine running America' pretty much summarise the tone of the movie, and Willis' diatribe against the incessant need for guaranteed safety was a series of perfectly sensible home truths used by his character to defend the indefensible. As well as predictably portraying the fast-food/mechanised farming industry as a ruthless monster, the film also effectively satirises the 'eco-warrior' responses to it, first with a well observed college student debate on how to fight the industry ("They are the meanest company in the country, and you're going to write a letter?!") and then with an abortive attempt to free cattle waiting for slaughter, which refuse to embrace the 'liberation' available to them.

The film does have its weaknesses. The sexually predatory meat factory supervisor was a one-dimensional and unconvincing character, and for a company so demonised, the health care provisions to its illegal immigrant workers seemed pretty decent, and the horrors of the 'kill floor' as finally visualised seemed nowhere near as bad as their descriptions. The final weakness is the general sense of defeat in the face of the corporate machine. There is a simple route that each of us can take to undo even the largest, meanest corporation: stop buying their product.

Overall, a thoughtful and thought-provoking film. Linklater's elliptical style might not be for everyone, but the reflections on the human cost of big business should be.
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Another Linklater gem
paulmartin-223 October 2006
Richard Linklater has made a niche for himself with a diverse range of highly original, intelligent and interesting films that are largely dialogue driven. Some are idiosyncratic variations of popular genres like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Waking Life was cutting edge and in a genre of its own while School of Rock was a mainstream hit in the teenage comedy genre.

In a sense, Linklater is like Michael Winterbottom. They have very different styles in film-making, but both tackle vastly different projects from one film to the next, creating impressive bodies of work. Any Linklater film is going to be anticipated by fans of his work, and Fast Food Nation does not disappoint.

Based on Eric Schlosser's non-fiction book of the same name, the film is a fictionalisation co-written by Schlosser and Linklater. The structure of the film is unconventional. It is complex, depicting a number of social, economic and human issues with much compassion. Though the characters' paths cross (or come close to it) at different stages, the film is not exactly an ensemble piece. The different stories don't join up in a contrived manner we often see in this genre. Sections are pieced together with a great line up of actors, such as Patricia Arquette, Bruce Willis, Ethan Hawke and Kris Kristofferson, each of whose characters are interesting enough to carry the film alone.

The truth behind the burgers we eat is revealed through Mickey's Burgers Marketing Manager Don Henderson (Greg Kinnear) as he attempts to discover the source of faecal contamination of the burgers. Amber (Ashley Johnson) is the conscience of the film. As she discovers the ethics in producing the burgers she smilingly dispenses to the public, we share in her transformation.

Catalina Sandino Moreno was terrific as the Colombian drug mule in Maria Full of Grace and again shines in this film as the desperate and indignant Mexican illegal worker. Paul Dano's role as a Mickey's worker is small but much more interesting than his performance in the mediocre Little Miss Sunshine. Though the story is American, there's relevance to Australia with the proliferation of fast food chains, the new IR laws, and cheap imported labour.

The film is largely character-driven but be warned that there are some gruesome scenes towards the end – scenes that should and need to be seen. The film is almost a companion piece to Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me. Whereas Super Size Me was an entertaining documentary, it wasn't as hard-hitting as this fictionalised semi-satirical look behind the scenes. Has anyone else noticed that McDonalds is blitzing us with marketing, just as they did in the lead up to Super Size Me? Fast food companies are afraid of this film, and should be. It is well worth seeing.
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Fast Food Nation challenges us to question our lives
alan-wright-23 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Early in the movie, we learn that there is fecal matter in the burgers. The poop in the burgers symbolizes the ethical compromises that the current economic system requires of anyone hoping to succeed. As Harry (Bruce Willis) observes, "Everyone must eat a little sh*t in life." In other words, find ways to adjust your values, and you will get along OK.

The three rebel characters – Rudy (Kris Kristofferson), the radical student Paco (Lou Taylor Pucci), and Amber's uncle – each challenge Harry's assertion by choosing to live their lives outside the system. None of them drives a shiny new car (like the Chevy truck -- Raul's symbol of success), nor are they likely ever to have prestigious high paying jobs. Yet, they hold onto their integrity by resisting, by refusing to "eat sh*t".

The movie follows the development of three main characters – Mickie's VP for marketing Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear), Amber (Ashley Johnson), and Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno). We meet each of these characters as they struggle to make it within the system. They find themselves each situated on different rungs of the systemic ladder of "success" and the movie tracks their efforts to move up to the next rung. Don is already a "success". He has a wife, two sons, and a comfortable, well paid white collar position of a major US corporation. Yet he discovers that staying on the ladder of success is not as easy or straightforward as one might imagine. He has only slightly more job security than the Mexicans. If he wants to continue on the ladder, he will need to "eat sh*t" just like everyone else. The alternative – ratting out the corruption in the system – spells almost certain economic disaster for him and his family.

The Mexican main character is, in fact a family. The Mexicans – Sylvia, her younger sister Coco (Ana Claudia Talancón), and Sylvia's partner Raul (Wilmer Valderrama) arrive in Texas full of hope. Unfortunately for them, their dreams of a better life were made more of marketing than of reality. They imagined that they were among the lucky ones who succeeded in sneaking across the border to a better life. They gradually realize that they have been lured into a deadly trap, kidnapped really. The trap is destined to extract from them their life force. These three characters are tempted by the promise of quick and easy money ($80 in one day!). Over time however, they are seduced, drugged, screwed, and broken – physically as well as spiritually. The corporation "cares deeply for the family" as long as it serves the corporate mission to maximize profits. As soon as any one of them becomes a liability, that person is spit out to fend for themselves or to die. Sylvia is the first to realize that something is wrong. She chooses to defend herself by seeking a lower paying but less humiliating form of employment. Cleaning hotel rooms, she is able to remain in relationship with another human being, maintain her sense of humor, and with it her humanity. Little sister Coco gets seduced by false promises and is used up, addicted to car payments as much as to crack. Raul risks his life to save his friend and gets his reward -- broken ribs, a false drug charge, and a pink slip (unemployment).

At the end of the movie Sylvia and Don are in identical situations. They realize to their horror, that their souls have been kidnapped, that they are slaves to a mindless system of profit making which doesn't care about them in the least. They are devastated by the thought that they may have to "eat sh*t" for the rest of their lives and there seems nothing they can do about it.

Amber, the high school student, dreams of becoming an astronaut. She is the only main characters who defies conventional wisdom, turning her back on the system. She looks at her mother's pathetic conformist life, listens to her rebel uncle, and decides to embrace an uncertain economic future by quitting her job over the prospect of a lifetime of unreality. Amber is an "everyman" character, an average student at an average high school, working at one of the nation's millions of minimum wage "entry level" positions. She is a cog in the corporate machinery, starting her life at the bottom, but with "great potential" according to her boss (Esai Morales). Gradually, it dawns on Amber that something is not right. She doesn't yet know what is wrong, but she decides to join a group of like minded young people who begin by just saying "No!" They choose the path of integrity, listening to their inner voice. While their initial attempt at direct action – freeing the slave cattle – appears ludicrous, they are, at least, doing something. They learn from their efforts, and refuse to give up. Meanwhile, Amber is reminded of the ludicrous behavior of Nelson Mandela, founder of the African National Congress, who spent more than 20 years of his life in prison rather than to bend to apartheid. In the end, the power of his example broke the back of apartheid and made Mandela president of South Africa. Rather than "hope for change" Mandela refused to eat the "sh*t" that South Africa required of every black person. Amber, like Mandela, doesn't know where her protests will lead, but she opts for idealism over compromise, preferring rebellion over obedience.

In the end it is the single-minded pursuit of corporate profits which requires that the line move ever faster. The speed of the line inevitably leads to mistakes (unwanted substances in the ground beef, injuries, inhumane relationships). Perpetual growth in the corporate bottom line requires that every day, some new compromise be made, some value sacrificed, some life lost. This important film challenges viewers to ask themselves if they are swallowing humiliation for the sake of false security.
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A wasted opportunity: Fast Food Nation is about as satisfying as a happy meal.
teh_mode1 November 2006
Apparently, ever since Stephen Gaghan bored everyone senseless with his intertwining storytelling techniques for Syriana (2005), Richard Linklater's latest project, a political satire-drama about the fast food industry and its various potholes, adopts the same strategy to the same sort of effect in Fast Food Nation. Among the protagonists includes Greg Kinnear as Don Henderson, the newly acquired vice-president of fast food mogul "Mickey's". His job requires him to market a new type of burger – "The Big One" to the public. Elsewhere we get to meet a family of Mexicans, among them Wilmer Valderrama and Catalina Sandino Moreno, who venture into America illegally via the nasty, corrupt factory worker Mike (Cannavale), in order to fill his disgusting work stations. Mickey's employee Amber (Johnson) who grows tiresome of flipping burgers and pervy bosses – eventually decides to gather a revolt against the beef-slaughtering industry.

On paper – this could be the most cinematically violent satire one could hope for on the big screen. The fast food nation, for better or worse, is such an easy subject to tackle as the behemoth of an industry's only true worth is to fatten the western world into a huge wave of immovable mammoths. The operation of it is even worse, as KFC's documented treatment of its fowl is appalling, as is McDonald's lack of nutritional awareness. So much bag to swing at, surely an accomplished director such as Richard Linklater couldn't possibly avoid hitting something? Suffice to say Fast Food Nation is absolutely punch-less. It relays common truths to support its depiction, which completely washed over me. There is artificial flavourings in these foods? Apparently immigrants are put to work illegally and unsafe in factories, you say? No kidding. Tell me something new. Shock me. The devouring and slaughter of a cow isn't a plea to boycott fast food – it is vegetarian propaganda. Yes it is nasty viewing, but no more so than the limb-removal in Saw (2004) or the teeth extraction in Park Chan Wook's Oldboy (2003). I knew animals die in the process of food making – it is common knowledge. Vegetarian propaganda belongs in a film like Madagascar (2005) or Finding Nemo (2003) where children ponder the humane nature of eating meat, whilst realising that nature itself is fairly ruthless when it comes to hunger. The fact that the biggest indignation proposed unto the industry by this film is of the amount of animal feces going "undetected" in their products is certainly disconcerting, but underlines the weakness to truly devour this subject. It is edited, directed and written in such a pedestrian manner, that not only is there a lack of insight, there is none of the brio or genuine intrigue that Morgan Spurlock's superbly insightful, and utterly entertaining documentary Super Size Me (2004) garnered. Spurlock uncovered a plethora of grotesque truths about fast food that not only made you think about that kind of diet, but also offered a compelling cinematic experience.

It is after witnessing a film as disappointing as Fast Food Nation, that one appreciates a work like Thank You For Smoking (2006) all the more. Linklater has made a movie not just lacking punch, but spark too. Jason Reitman's film about tobacco lobbyists was a movie with similarly hackneyed message: think for yourself. It preached to its own choir much in the same vein is Linklater is doing here; only with verve, and a sense of humour, that more than made it worth the emission. Fast Food Nation is desperately lacking a humorous edge. There is none of that biting satire from Wag The Dog (1997), none of the cutthroat cynicism of Wall Street (1987) or the fluidity in Linklater's previous release this year A Scanner Darkly (2006). It even lacks the intelligence of Syriana (2005), which was not a particularly accomplished film. Instead what we have is an admittedly well-intentioned film, which lacks the wit, insight and storytelling to make this a worthwhile experience.
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A wasted opportunity-very disappointing
goldbe19 July 2006
I had the chance to see this film at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Of all the films I saw, this one was the most disappointing, and the most shockingly mediocre. The film jumps around between a few different, barely interconnected stories, yet none of these segments are explored enough to draw the audience in. For example, towards the end of the film, I began to realize that Greg Kinnear had completely disappeared from the movie without a trace. He is not again seen until the ending credits. The film seems to pride itself on continually throwing in more and more familiar faces, yet these actors prove to be more of a distraction than anything else. Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Avril Lavigne, Bruce Willis, and others all pop up for a brief scene or two, yet for the most part, they fail to leave any lasting impression. At the films end, I left the theater feeling no more enlightened, no more informed, and no more interested in the topics discussed throughout the movie. Richard Linklater is a great director, and he has cast some great actors, but still, Fast Food Nation fails to compel or leave any sort of impact. My guess is that a year from now, most people will have forgotten about this movie entirely.
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It's not just in the beef... it's in this movie.
euvertrue13 October 2006
Fast Food Nation was a great book, and as a piece of nonfiction, it is still one of the best pieces of long-form journalism of the decade. But Eric Schlosser and Richard Linklater's fictionalized take on the same topic isn't deserving of the original book's name.

First, the film tries far too hard to do far too much at once. Is it a cautionary tale about eating beef? Cattle farming? Illegal immigration? Paying workers too little? Crystal meth? Optimism? Any one of these (or even two) would have been enough fodder for a 2-hour film, but tackling them all in one movie is a blunder. A very Big One. No topic is explored enough, and in the process, they all suffer.

Second, the casting is hit-or-miss. Wilmer Valderrama is surprisingly good, as are Greg Kinnear and Ashely Johnson. As expected, Catalina Sandino Moreno runs away with the film, when she's on camera, which is not very much. But Avril Lavigne is laugh-out-loud terrible, as is the comically unscary Luis Guzman.

Third, the grossout factor. There are graphic and bloody scenes of animal death and dismemberment in the movie, but to what end? They're stuck in with no discussion or reflection on them, and because of this, they seem simply gratuitous, not moving or instructive. And really, that's the story of the entire film.
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a kind of head on collision of message and character, with the former winning over the latter
MisterWhiplash19 November 2006
There's a tendency in films of this nature, of the Fast Food Nation kind, where you already know going into it what the message is. It's not quite exactly as immediately black and white as it might seem (at first), but then after a while it becomes much more clear. While filmmaker Richard Linklater doesn't make very simple statements like 'fast food will make you fat', he does try to push the message that the sort of machinery of corporation is similar to that of the assembly line, is what is crippling to those entwined in the circle of cheap product made from dead meat. Which is fine; I'm not one of those that think precisely along the lines of Bertolucci, who was quoted as saying that he leaves messages for the post office and not for film. However, I do expect that if a filmmaker wants to put forward the message- and boy does Fast Food Nation do that more than anything- to make the characters &/or story lines interesting in the dramatic framework. He achieves this, but only up to a point. Narrative focus and dramatic drive only come through much more effectively within the last 45 minutes, while the first half seems startlingly dull, or at the least meandering.

That being said, I did find elements here and there throughout the weaker section of the film interesting. There's even a spellbinding aerial shot of the seemingly unending field of cattle, waiting for the slaughter. But for the most part early on we're treated to the sort of set-up of the main story lines: a group of Mexican illegals (one of them, Sylvia, played well by Catalina Moreno) get picked up by a guy in a van, and taken to a 'Mart' in town, and go to find work. Most of the illegals find it at a meat-packing/grinding/whatever plant, where what is seen by a quasi executive type, Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear), is not seeing everything he thinks he is when shown around the plant. He meets with a couple of people, one environmentally conscious and protective of his land from corporations (Kris Kristofferson), and another who is cynical and not too optimistic (Bruce Willis, who has one of the best scenes in the film albeit with a speech attached). Meanwhile, as he goes into a Mickey's (ho-ho) to get a 'Big One' burger from Amber (Ashley Johnson), Linklater and co-writer Eric Schlosser also follow her tale of nothingness of the small-town teenage girl.

All of these stories interconnect at times, or are left to themselves. While one is actually intriguing and ultimately very sad, which is the Mexican immigrants tale (that sense of tragic exploitation going on that ends up finding a place in the 'Nation' sense of the word), the other two either spurt to a halt after a while, or just kind of go on aimlessly until the last few scenes. The former of those with Kinnear doesn't give him that much to do aside from listening to people talk, and on the phone talking to his family. In a way he could've had his own film as a character, like with Wally Wiggins in Waking Life, but on its own Linklater leaves him be after the first hour, and then coming to a wrap-around in a predictably dour manner in the end credits. Amber's story, on the other hand, is sort of the opposite- she is just a small-town girl living in a lonely world (as the song goes), and sometimes listening to idiotic plots to rob the Mickey's by his co-workers, while here and there figuring out the future for herself.

What's both fascinating and frustrating about the film though could be seen sort of from Amber's storyline, where you see scenes that are convincing both in characters talking like real people (ala Ethan Hawke's moments), but also having not as much to do with the real 'message' going across that one might think- that is until Amber joins up with the young Animal-rights/ecological brigade and goes to cut a fence down to let the cows out. This actually had a real pathos to it, and was even entertaining (probably against Linklater's own intentions). But it's not just the writing or how Linklater connects the stories together. Acting wise it's hit or miss- Moreno is fantastic in a role that ends her up seeing the actual slaughtering of cows (which is staggering, whatever you think about serving meat in fast food). But the huge ensemble either gets their little moments well like Willis or Hawke, or either 'phones it in' like Kristofferson or just outright sucks like Lavigne. There's even a convincing one-note turn by the sleazy, pig manager of the assembly line job (I forget his name), but he too only get to have his character do what's required in the script.

As I walked out of the theater I realized that this wasn't at all a bad film, in fact it's a a pretty decent effort at dramatizing in small-town/big-ensemble fashion what it is to have the ugliness of consumer productivity. But that I also found it to be, of the films I've seen of his so far, my least favorite of Linklater's, which goes to show how strong a work he can still deliver when when not working at full throttle. And it's a little ironic considering how much of a success I found A Scanner Darkly to be, possibly coming closest to my favorite of his, and how both films take on a specific message to the audience, but one accomplishes it by basing it around characters and a really tightly-knit storyline and style that is consistently engaging, while the other is content to hop around from malaise to shock to whatever. Grade: B
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There's sh*t in the meat.
lastliberal2 October 2007
It doesn't matter that there was a boatload of stars in this film; it is the story that counts.

When i saw the dude spit on the hamburger, I know I was in for trouble.

It is sad to see how the exec sold out and just went along to protect his livelihood when he knew there was something wrong going on.

I lived nine years next to these CAFOs - Controlled Animal Feed Operations. The flies were so bad that you could not go out at night. This was in town! When those West Texas winds whipped across the prairies in the Summer, you knew that wasn't dirt getting in your mouth. 50 pounds of p*ss and sh*t a day from each cow. Where i lived, we fed one million cows a year - 25% of the beef sold in the country. That's a lot of sh*t! The conditions in the meat packing plants were true. We had them and they did have constant accidents due to pushing the lines. It is a shame that we have people risking their lives to get these kinds of jobs because it makes their lives so much better.

Bruce Willis says to just cook it and you'll be all right. I am not so sure anymore.
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Terrible propaganda without a point
christine-jenson16 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
While we all know that the Fast Food industry has its downfalls, this movie strays away from the main point it should be trying to make. It goes on a tangent about illegal immigration which is totally irrelevant and the gruesome scenes at the end make the movie seem like vegan propaganda rather than information people should know to make wise decisions about their health. The acting was OK (except for Avril lavigne, what were they thinking!) but there was no solution and no point to the movie. The slaughter scene crossed the line. I think that killing any animal is sad and difficult to watch, but I eat meat, and respect animals for the nutrition they provide. I think the movie skewed scenes such as the slaughter to incite a strong reaction. It was a poorly made movie and a waste of my time and lunch!
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Soft on the Fast Food industry
DLPhelps6 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"Fast Food Nation" (2006, 116 min., U.S.), directed by Richard Linklater, creates an ensemble of fictional characters that are connected in various ways to fast food, and examines the health risks and the environmental and social consequences of the industry. From the intro and blurb, I expected to see more facts and stats. More blood and guts! The information Professor Griggs provided in her discussion prior to the film was more entertaining and informative than this movie. Here is a nice Hollywood style format story approach to a national food crisis. Do not just sit back and take it lightly. I really expected less of a narrative story line and more of an industry expose. Personally, I felt the film was 'soft' in its approach to the cattle farmers and showing the destructive practices of the fast food industry.

What we did not see is the side of the fast food industry by the people that are their main customers. There was not one soccer mom with the car full of kids rushing off to some game. There was a montage in the opening showing people sitting in the restaurant enjoying a nice leisurely meal. That scene was very unrealistic. They did not show the live of SUV's, Minivans and old beat up cars idling in the drive-through line. They did not show the people who eat there because that is all they can afford.

This film gets a passing grade, which is better than the grade my fast food dinner received prior to coming to class that night. What the film does show is the human cost of how these large corporations treat their employees. Abuse is rampant, sexual, physical, mental all take a toll on the psyche of the employee. The illegal immigrant workers endure extremely gross and unsanitary working conditions because they can make more here in the US than they can in other countries. Most everyone in the film is afraid to rock the boat, do not bit the hand that feeds you. Even the marketing guy is afraid to take a stand on this because he has a family to support. The screenplay does address the many conflicts each of the characters faced and showed progression thought the film. Over time all, the characters changed dramatically from the innocent beginning of the story. I guess placing the kill floor scene at the end of the film works if it was in the beginning we would have lost half the audience in disgust. However, really, the smell is wretched and I feel they did not show that enough. This film gets a C+.
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Cattle of Cows and People and Industry of Food
claudio_carvalho29 June 2008
In California, the VP of Marketing of the Mickey's Fast Food Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear) is responsible for the hamburger "Big One", the number one in selling in Mickey's chain of fast food restaurants. When an independent research in the meat patties produced in Cody, Colorado, indicates the presence of cow manure, Don is sent to the facility to investigate possible irregularities in the meatpacking production plant and also the major supplier of cattle. Along his surveys, Don finds the truth about the process and how meat is contaminated. Meanwhile, a group of illegal Mexican immigrants arrive in Cody to work in the dirty jobs in the plant while a group of activists plot how to expose the terrible situation of the Mickey's industry.

"Fast Food Nation" has a promising beginning, giving an expectation of a strong message against the fast food industry and the exploitation of illegal immigrants in USA. Unfortunately in a certain moment the story becomes a shallow drama, losing the focus on the cattle of cows, people treated like cattle and the process of manufacturing industrialized meat, never going deeper in these issues. In this regard, "Super Size Me" is much more effective, showing the effects of fast food in the human body. I believe this theme would be tailored for Michael Moore, and I did not like this work of Richard Linklater. There are many pointless cameo appearances of famous actors, like for example the characters of Ethan Hawke or Bruce Willis, maybe to show how popular this director is in Hollywood. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "Nação Fast Food" ("Fast Food Nation")
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Great movie- is a must to see
ijece16 November 2006
Famed writer/director Richard Linklater directs an A-list cast in a dramatized version of the best-selling book Fast Food Nation. Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine), Wilmer Valderrama (That '70s Show), Catalina Moreno Sandino (Maria Full of Grace), and Ethan Hawke (Before Sunset) create a complex, compelling, and entertaining movie, with rich performances and sharp dialogue. Ever wonder what goes into making a fast-food burger? Discover that, and so much more, as you are drawn into the stories of many different people who work together to create that all-American phenomenon known as the fast-food meal. See the toll it takes on everyone—humans and other animals—involved.
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It's rare that a movie plays slower than the book!
rtate-17 December 2006
Very disappointing. It's rare that a movie plays slower than the book. While the book is biting, brutal, real -- and still journalistic!! -- the movie is slow, scripted and full of red herrings. While trying to "dramatize" characters mentioned in the book, the movie loses its focus. Case in point: the book has the fantastic McLibel case from London in which two young people take on McDonalds -- and arguably bring down the giant. What do we have in the film?: a group of student losers who can't even pull off a cattle emancipation. The book has teens robbing the very store they've been working for. The movie?: teens TALKING about robbing the very store they work for... That's called a red herring. And this very important story deserves better. Very frustrating. Read the book.
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Skip the Movie, Read the Book
lisa_ann_sanders15 November 2006
I'm completely shocked by the comments of this being a gem or a political masterpiece. My husband and I attended a screener of "Fast Food Nation" last night and we were disgusted. Not by the graphic images of cows being slaughtered (that was to be expected - this is supposed to be about the fast food industry from start to finish). We were disgusted by how heavy handed and poorly made the film was. It appeared that the director doesn't trust his audience to use use their brains and make up their own mines about the fast food industry. He shoves every story line in your face as to say "Look, isn't this awful. I'm telling you it's horrible. You have to believe me." Spare yourself this waste of time. Go grab the book "Fast Food Nation," it's much more filling.
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Just Garbage.
cows_are_great18 December 2006
Moral of the story: Junk food and fast food are EVIL. This is new. No one has ever done this moral before. Ever. I just didn't see that one coming, that message just punched me right in the face, especially with tag-lines as clever and catchy as "Would you like lies with that" (GET IT? INSTEAD OF FRIES?! HAHAHA! Hilarity. And yet clever and subtle and just smart. Or...), or "The truth is hard to swallow" (That's a clear warning sign that you're in for a festival of condescending know-it-all messages, when they declare their own message a truth or a revelation of some sort... how cocky and pretentious, eh?).

As far as the movie goes from a purely political or moral perspective, it's crap. First of all, it isn't controversial at all, despite the fact that they insist on trying to make it seem as if it is. It was controversial 30 years ago. Stop acting like this is some spark to a revolution or something, for Christ's sake. There isn't really anything you didn't know if you watched SuperSize Me and read the book and have just in general not been locked in a closet for the last 20 years without a TV. The messages are old, stale and uninteresting. And because it's a work of fiction, anything bad that could happen, does happen, and then it gets the balls sensationalized out of it. To use this movie as a piece of education would be like using Terminator to ban research on robotics and AI. So, weak and stale points, sensationalized arguments and an arrogant and condescending tone. Oh, you thought this was why I declared this movie garbage?

The story... whoa Nelly... the story. Poor Mexican border crossers get treated badly and butchered, elite corporate guy sells crap to people and doesn't care because he's a corporate guy and that's what corporate guys do, because corporate = evil, and the teenager feels rebellious. The acting is good, but it can only mask the absolute shoddiness of the story to a certain degree. Characters are all on sided, the story is so obviously politically motivated and without emotion, and the characters barely, if at all, tie in to each other. It's just bad.

The only reason anyone is giving this movie a good review is because they agreed with the moral before they even saw it. They liked that it smashed at fast food just as much as they liked to smash at it. Morally inclined bias to the actual review of the movie. That's all it is.

This movie is indeed just plain fart smelly garbage.
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Go read the book
romper-26 November 2006
Fast Food Nation is a film that maybe shouldn't have been made. It fails to be either a documentary worthy of the subject matter, or a piece of fiction that holds your attention. There are snippets of nice storyline and characterisations, but they are few and far between.

Catalina Sandino Moreno, as the main female character does a great job, and the storyline about the Mexican workers is well done, but the way the focus shifts between three main narratives, and some of the picayune detail of those stories is unwarranted, I feel.

Some of the younger actors give the better performances, but Bruce Willis in particular is over the top and plays an almost clumsily drawn character. Greg Kinnear's performance is fairly dull, and has no real force as a leading character and the purported means to thread the film into some cohesion.

If you want a film that talks about the way that the realities of a workplace and the search for a place in the world intrude into our happy fantasies, this might be your film. It certainly doesn't work as a exploration of the fast food culture or the meat packing industry, and too much of the interesting depth in the book was glossed over, or missed altogether.
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Rent the DVD and get the special features
frederique-carre1 May 2007
I read some of the comments made about this film. It does stay at a very superficial level and leaves the audience a bit "hungry" at the end (but not hungry for meat!). I would have wished for more insights - going deeper into the subject.

I saw some comments about the poor acting and I disagree. I think that all actors had a part and is was nice to bring some stars like Bruce Willis and Ethan Hawke.

I rent the DVD and I watched the special features which contain 3 episodes of "The Meatrix", starring Moopheus. The folks who created this cartoon delivered the same message as "Fast Food Nation" in less than 15 minutes - I learned as much and it was fun! I highly recommend.
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Fast Food Nation would have worked better as a documentary, instead of a motion picture.
stewiefan20122 March 2008
Fast Food Nation is based on the eye opening book of the same title by by Eric Schlosser. The movie is all about a few slightly interconnected story lines all about fast food, its culture in society, the way it's made, who it's made by, and even the disgusting truth behind what's in the meat. One story is about Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear), a fast food executive who invented a super size meal called the "Big One" in a fast food corporation named Mickey's. He is sent to the meat packing plant to investigate the sanitation of the plant, and possibly figure out how exactly cow feces are getting into the patty meat. Another story is about a family of illegal aliens who go to work for the plant, centering around the married Raul (Wilmer Valderrama) and Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno). While there they get involved in drugs, injuries, and the disgusting and abusive habits of how fast food meat gets manufactured. A third story is about a Mickey's employee named Amber (Ashley Johnson) who begins to boycott the big business corporations to make a stand. There are a few other scattered story lines as well.

I'm still reading Eric Schlosser's book, but I went ahead and saw the movie anyway. While watching the movie I began to realize that Fast Food Nation would have worked much better as a documentary than an actual movie. The movie tries to pack way too much into its two hour length, to the point where most of the characters aren't fleshed out enough to really care much. Most of the acting is very good however. Greg Kinnear had the most interesting part, and I actually felt satisfied with his character development by the end, although he does disappear long before the movie's closing. The story of the illegal aliens are played well by Catalina Sandino Moreno and especially Wilmer Valderrama. But their story is unsatisfying because there's too many other needless characters the movie focuses on. For instance I hated the Ashley Johnson's plot because there's really no need for it. Plus don't even get me started on the scenes where her and her annoying activist friends plan to free all the cows that go to the slaughter house. Those parts were just plain irritating and laughable. As for other characters Luis Guzman and Bruce Willis have small roles, as do Paul Dano and Bobby Cannavale. The only one that stands out among this excess is Bruce Willis as the owner of the meat plant, who knows the unsanitary conditions and just doesn't care.

Fast Food Nation is way overstuffed with far too many characters, story lines, and messages. Some of the characters are eye-roll worthy, and even the script has a few boring scenes which literally put me to sleep. The movie's running time clocks in at 116 minutes, and with all the unnecessary characters and excessive throw-away side stories this movie just doesn't work. The film also has no creative style to it making it an even more flat experience. As of now I work as a part-time cashier at Mcdonald's and all I can say is I know that the fast food is disgusting, and I also wouldn't be surprised if cow feces were in the meat. This movie fails to tell me anything I didn't already know. It is not nearly as eye opening as the book, and as a movie the only word to describe the experience is unsatisfying.

I realize this review is very negative, so here are a few elements Fast Food Nation gets right. Greg Kinnear's character was the most interesting and I would definitely watch a movie all about him. Bruce Willis' 10 minute cameo was great and one of the most effective scenes in the whole movie. Wilmer Valderrama gives an excellent performance, as does Catalina Sandino Moreno. The scenes spent inside the slaughter house are also very effective.

Fast Food Nation just does not work as a movie. There are too many plot lines running which affects character development, and the overall effect of the film. Some of the side plots are downright unnecessary. There is also a major lack of cinematic style or flair to the movie making it all the more dull. The film is somewhat effective but comes up short and disappointing. I give Fast Food Nation a 2 out of 4. As I said before it would have worked better as a documentary.
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The facts of this "fictional" movie are true
davehart-530 March 2007
I gave the movie a 4 because felt that is was a bit boring. I would find myself interested in the main subject matter, being the food manufacturing plant and all of the sudden the movie would switch gears towards a girl and her uncle. A lot of this back and forth caused me to lose interest.

On a serious note about the importance of this movie, for the last twenty years I have worked as an inspector in manufacturing plants and the restaurants themselves and all of the so called "fictional" stuff in this movie is actually quite true. A restaurant isn't going to put a remains of a slaughtered cow on the hamburger box, but the reality is that is what we are eating. Even worse, by the time it reaches the stores it has been infested with god knows what.

On a restaurant level the atmosphere is even worse. I could write an entire book about what I have seen in these places. You think the movie portrays the manufacturing plants to be bad, you should see what I have seen in the stores. I will not even say what I have seen in Chinese restaurants, but even in hamburger joints I have seen rats, mold, I can even recall being in a fast food restaurant and seeing where a milkshake had spilled all over the back of the burger make line and no one ever cleaned it up. It was moldy and had flies all over it.

You would that I would shy away from fast food because of what I have seen, but it is true that this food is addictive. Now don't get me wrong, I do know where not to eat and where not to take my family, but I still munch down a BM once in a while.

After watching this movie I feel like crying when I picture my children eating this crap. The scene where the punk employee spits on the burger is also very true. This happens everyday! When I was a teenager I worked in a restaurant and heaven help you if you came through the drive thru just before close. Most employees are so anxious to get the hell out of there that they start putting the away as it gets closer to closing time. I can recall a half an hour went by with no cars then at one minute until close some drunk came thru and placed an order. He was very obnoxious and boy did he pay for it. Not that being polite would have made his "secret ingredient" any better. The manager him self hooked him up! I swear I had nothing to do with it!! haha The reality is that this happens everyday, in every town, at every chain of restaurant, whether it is fast food or a nice sit down restaurant. None of us are safe. I think I will become a vegetarian.
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