Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Fast Food Nation (2006)
This is how a Happy Meal gets made.
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.