Release Date: November 17th, 2006 by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
The Cast: Wilmer Valderrama, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Greg Kinnear, Luis Guzmán, Ashley Johnson, Bobby Cannavale, Bruce Willis, Kris Kristofferson, Avril Lavigne, Paul Dano, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lou Taylor Pucci.
Directed by Richard Linklater.
In English and Spanish with subtitles.
Interview with Richard Linklater
BASIC PREMISE: Don Henderson (Kinnear), a marketing executive for a fast food chain, travels to the company’s meat factory to investigate reports of meat contaminated with fecal matter. Based on the book of the same title by Eric Schlosser.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Fast Food Nation would have been much more engaging as a documentary because its narrative thread wears too thin and lacks enough character development to be believable. In the first act, Don, a marketing executive for a fast food chain Mickey’s (get the hint?) discovers in a meeting that the company’s burgers might have fecal matter mixed inside them. The rest of the film shows the life of workers from different levels of the company, from the restaurant employees (Johnson, Dano and Pucci) to the meat factory workers (Valderrama and Moreno). The factory workers are illegal Mexican immigrants whose supervisor (Cannavale) harasses the women and trades drugs for sex. Despite a lively ensemble cast (with a cameo by Bruce Willis), no one really stands out in any particular scene. Eventually, the conflict regarding the feces in the meat doesn’t become surprising or interesting anymore. Co-writers Richard Linklater and Eric Schlosser jump around too often between scenes without enough focus to hold your attention. They don’t take enough risks, except in the disgusting third act which shows the lengthy process of slaughtering the animals and de-gutting them at the slaughterhouse. These in-your-face scenes feel too shocking and disgusting, especially for vegetarians, and could’ve been easily cut from the film because they’re already implied throughout the rest of it. More scenes with Don investigating would have been helpful and, moreover, he doesn’t seem tough enough. It’s somewhat fascinating to watch how working for a fast food chain affects its workers, but the by-the-numbers script doesn’t allow them to truly come to life in this disjointed film.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: None, other than the message that you should think twice before biting into that burger, which you already learned from Super Size Me and you will soon learn from the documentary Our Daily Bread as well.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: A weak, disjointed narrative with poor character development and unnecessarily shock value in the third act.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 3
IN A NUTSHELL: Mildly fascinating with a lively ensemble cast, but disjointed and ultimately underwhelming.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: VHS/DVD
The "F" Menu