FAST FOOD NATION
STARRING: Greg Kinnear, Wilmer Valderrama, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Bruce Willis and Ethan Hawke
DIRECTED BY: Richard Linklater
Opens Friday, November 17
When Eric Schlosser first released the book Fast Food Nation back in 2001, his mind-blowing examination of the bloated and corrupt fast food industry sent drive-thru lovers screaming for the closest vegetarian curry buffet. Delving into the world of fast food, the best-selling book exposed the various levels of the food chain that create the all-American meal, and what he found was bleak.
The film is co-written by Schlosser and director Richard Linklater (whose movies have ranged from the vast quirkiness of Slacker to the surreal ruminations of Waking Life). Taking a hard-hitting news report that took years to complete and creating a plausible and convincing narrative is no small feat and they have succeeded in creating a drama that is sure to upend even the most jaded of cinemagoers.
The cast list reads like a who's who of independent and mainstream cinema, with Greg Kinnear as the well-meaning, but impotent fast food executive and Bruce Willis as a menacingly power-hungry executive in the same company. As they lock horns over their burgers about the fecal counts in the meat, it conveys one of the biggest plagues in American business the pursuit of money over compassion.
Wilmer Valderramma gives a stellar performance as a Mexican worker sincerely trying to make a better life for him and his wife. The Latinos who pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of sneaking across the treacherous border, only to find themselves working in the deplorable conditions of the meat-packing company, are the most poignant victims of the money-making machine. Workers are given little in the way of training and are thrust into one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet.
The frontline associates at Mickey's (thinly veiled name change) are teenagers just as likely to rob the joint, as they are to show up on time for their shifts. They are depicted as disturbingly apathetic Brian (Paul Dano) savagely slaps together burgers, pausing only to spit in the special sauce. In contrast, the hyper-educated youth with a sincere desire to affect change are left with letter writing as their only recourse.
The final, gruesome scenes of the killing floor in a meat plant are deeply disturbing and shocking, and it's likely anyone with a conscience will steer clear of the drive-thru after the images of cows being gutted are seared onto their minds. This is not an escapist Hollywood romp. It is infuriating, sickening and gut-wrenching. It is a scathing examination of what goes into our food supply and must be seen. Just don't bring a burger with you to the theatre.