Friday, November 17, 2006

Fast Food Nation

I’d like a triple bacon cheeseburger, large seasoned curly fries, medium chocolate shake and a hot apple pie.

Oops, wrong venue. This is where I feed my incessant hunger to set the record straight about films. They put the drive-thru … over here.

My bad.

Well, back to feeding my ego.

Out in limited release is Richard Linklater’s latest message film, “Fast Food Nation”.

I say message film because in between making films to pay the rent, he is determined to explore issues that most people towards the right end of the political spectrum would deem namby-pamby or bring to mind the phrase, “Get a haircut, you hippie”.

I’m a fan of much of Linkater’s work, even though I tend not to want too much politicizing within a fictional film. I prefer to keep such socio-political issues in a documentary, where editorializing and over dramatization can hopefully be kept to a minimum.

I always think that the if your point is to get a message across, you should just do that. Don’t bother trying to be so clever.

In regards to the film itself, “Fast Food Nation” is about the practices and policies of the fast food industry. It follows three stories: that of the big fast food chain, the store employees and the meat packing plant.

The fictional “Mickey’s” fast food chain has discovered a high fecal-coliform count in their meat. As so succinctly put by the head of the company, there’s “shit in the meat”.

So he sends Greg Kinnear to the meat packing plant to see how that could happen and if it’s a larger problem than they know about.

At the same time, Ashley Johnson is a sales clerk at a local Mickey’s who is beginning to go hippie and wants to do something about the oppressive and inhumane captivity and slaughter of cows for all the meat.

Meanwhile, Wilmer Valderrama and Catalina Sandino Moreno are illegal immigrants who have crossed into the United States to find better jobs. They end up working at the meat packing plant under harsh and illegal conditions.

As you can probably ascertain, Linklater isn’t a fan of how fast food chains bring people their food. Behind the film is Eric Schlosser who wrote the book “Fast Food Nation” that the film is sort-of based on.

I say sort of because why not just make a documentary about fast food companies and their practices? I’m probably going a little overboard about this but sometimes I get on my high horse and this one is a Clydesdale.

The reason Linklater decided to craft a fictional story based on the material within the book is probably exposure. Documentaries rarely reach a broad audience.

In putting this film together, he was able to tap on a host of Hollywood actors, all of whom probably wish they lived in a blue state: Luis Guzmán, Bobby Cannavale, Patricia Arquette, Paul Dano, Kris Kristofferson, Bruce Willis, Ethan Hawke, Avril Lavigne and Aaron Himelstein

In doing so, Linklater further made this film push the boundaries of my tolerance.

I love cameos. They can be fun. However, as this isn’t a comedy and the point of the film should probably be educating people about the harsh reality behind a happy meal, throwing celebrities at me only serves to distract or infuriate.

Don’t get me wrong, the actors mostly do a good enough job. It’s just that I find it difficult to stick with the problems the film is trying to convey when I’m constantly having to laugh at the idea of Ethan Hawke giving advice to a young girl as she prepares to leave high school.

Also, who the hell thought Avril Lavigne was a good idea? Just because her name is recognizable doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to cast her in the film.

Anyway, another issue I have with the film is that none of the three stories really get a proper conclusion. Hell, make sure you don’t leave the theater once the credits roll because after half a minute, the “conclusion” to Kinnear’s storyline pops up.

Dumb.

If you’re going to end a film, fade to black and let the credits roll, there’s no freakin’ reason to have any part of the storyline be after that point.

I reiterate: Dumb.

Along the way, while the film tries to weave the storylines together (I’m getting even more tired with this screenwriting angle), more than just the issue of fast food company practices are brought up.

The plight of illegal immigrants gets a share of the spotlight. This angle was the most interesting and I think Linklater would have been better suited making a film about this than bothering to attempt and dissuade me from super sizing my lunch.

To that end, near the conclusion of the film, there is a pretty gruesome scene involving the slaughtering of cows at the meat packing plant.

If you are at all squeamish, or have just eaten a nice, juicy steak, you may not want to check this film out.

I, of course, went right out and bought two cheeseburgers at the local drive-thru. Just like “Super Size Me” only served to make me want some chicken mcnuggets, the kind of preaching that “Fast Food Nation” serves up just infuriates me.

It’s that psychological element inside of me that doesn’t like to do what I’m told, especially if it’s health related. (A big shout out to my boys in Meat Market!)

Well, as you can probably tell, I’m not going to give “Fast Food Nation” a very good rating.

In fact, it’s getting a 2 out of 5. I would have preferred a documentary over this quasi star-studded calamity of a movie mash up. However, I’m sure there are plenty of people (mostly hippies) who will find this to be just what they’ve been waiting for.

Decide for yourself. Me? I’m thinking a #3 with extra bacon is in order right about now.

1 Comments:

Anonymous patrick said...

just watched Fast Food Nation, it's impactful to say the least... earlier today i passed up a sausage mcmuffin because of it. Evidently it is worth passing up fast food for more than health reasons.

3/18/2008 05:43:00 PM  

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