Friday, 23 February 2007

Fast Food Nation - Review by Robert Duffin

Director: Richard Linklater
Screenwriter: Eric Schlosser & Richard Linklater
Running time: 116 mins
Certificate: 15
Released: March 23rd

The important question for anyone considering Fast Food Nation as an evening of entertainment is this: do you want to see a movie from the director of Before Sunset or from the director of The Bad New Bears? Richard Linklater, whichever version you prefer, turns his hand to adapting the mammoth bestseller from Eric Schlosser and spins it into a fictional tale about fast food production and the social and environment repercussions of this reckless industry.

There’s a scene late in the film that works as an unintentional summation of Linklater’s work here. A group of rag tag teenagers led by Avril Lavigne (sigh) break down a fence in an attempt to free some cows that are soon to be McFodder. “Go cows,” they wail yet the cows are unmoved by the tweens recently politicised actions, as I was with Linklater’s. After the sublime Super Size Me there was very little left to say about the fast food industry in an original manner, so the filmmakers here simply don’t try. Instead they favour the carving and reheating of old ideas that produces a cinematic meal about as nutritious as the ones the film condemns.

The storyline involving fast food chain employee turned activist Amber (Ashley Johnson) is embarrassingly clunky. She is the picture perfect employee complete with the sales patter until her uncle Pete (Ethan Hawke) arrives. He’s the black sheep of the family who bemoans the rise of fast food, globalisation and pontificates about revolution being for the young before telling his niece (i.e. the audience) “it’s up to you to do something!” So she does: down come the rock band posters as she breaks out the blu-tac for George W. Bush caricatures. She ditches her friend for new “interesting” ideologues (that’ll be Avril) and the bid for cow liberation. At the Glasgow Film Festival Q&A, the film’s producer Jeremy Thomas guarantees us that the film was deliberate “political teen naivety.” Deliberate or not, it was still a mistake.

Other meandering and ‘socially relative’ narrative threads include Mexican immigrants who have “no choice” other than snorting cocaine and engaging in unsafe sex because the fast food industry claims their souls by ‘forcing’ them to work in abattoirs. The usually reliable Greg Kinnear rambles around in search of a character arc but instead finds Kris Kristofferson and Bruce Willis before having the decency (and the smarts) to disappear for the last hour of the film. An attack on this industry should be an easy one yet Linklater fumbles and make Fast Food Nation a laborious film to watch.

Exactly what is the point of Fast Food Nation? It doesn’t turn you off the Big Macs like Morgan Spurlock’s documentary nor does it engage as social drama. It’s about fast food but also manages to drag in every other big issue of the day in a half-baked fashion. Also, despite producer Thomas’ assurance that film is not “anti-meat” the extended and graphic abattoir finale where we watch a cow stunned, skinned, shredded and minced makes you wonder exactly where he finds his “humanely killed steak.” It seems even Richard Linklater couldn’t decide what the point of the film was and the result is this messy and mismatched effort. Fast Food Nation, from the director of The Bad News Bears, opens March 23rd.
Please feel free to add comments...

1 comment:

patrick said...

just watched Fast Food Nation, it's an impactful flick 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.