Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation (Richard Linklater, 2006) [4]
Eric Schlosser's book was a fantastic piece of muckraking journalism, highly engrossing and yet disturbing at the same time. For the film, he and director Linklater have tried to translate the basic facets of the book and made a narrative out of it. Sadly, this film doesn't come anywhere close to the book in terms of skill as well as impact. Linklater focus is on three main character threads: the fast food company suit, the teenage employee of said fast food chain, and an illegal immigrant who ends up working in the meatpacking plant that supplies the fast food company with their beef. The problem with this is that even though it shows the interconnectivity of all three even though each has no direct contact with the other, each character and their story seems to really have no consequence on the other. There has to be something to thread them together, which almost comes together with Greg Kinnear as the executive and Ashley Johnson as the teenager both coming to an enlightenment of the "evilness" of the fast food industry. But that still leaves out the Mexican workers who always seem too distant from the other stories. The performances are o.k. but nothing spectacular even though Kinnear is interesting as a dim bulb. The Amber character is problematic in her transformation from good worker to young idealist. She ends up in some kind of symbolic idealism, a group of college students who seem to act in the way older people (in this case, Linklater and Schlosser) want them to. I don't believe a minute, not because I'm cynical about what is being discussed; it just seems to be taking the easy way out. Clearly, even after this film and the book, many people have chosen to ignore the disgusting facts and still frequent McDonald's and their ilk. It's hard to muster righteous indignation in a film when it seems its own characters are resigned to basic hopelessness. Linklater and Schlosser have taken all of the force out of the book and end up with a film that is too defeatist in its outlook.

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