Archive | 11:05 pm

I Don’t Eat Big Ones

16 Oct

If Super Size Me didn’t turn you off to eating fast food, well, then Fast Food Nation certainly will. In fact, it may just turn you off to eating meat altogether. The lastest film from Richard Linklater, one of my favorite directors (he directed Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, and Before Sunset, among other films), Fast Food Nation is based on the book by Eric Schlosser. Only instead of the film being a documentary, it’s a dramatic version of what Schlosser documents. We meet (no pun intended) Mexicans who come across the border and work in the meat processing plant, a marketing executive looking into charges that the meat in the hamburgers includes fecal matter, the teenagers who work in a fast food joint, and various other folks who work in and around the fast food industry. While there’s not so much of a plot, there is a lot of character, and we see just who these people are who are making, marketing, and selling us our Big Macs and Whoppers.

Suffice it to say, Fast Food Nation does not paint a pretty picture of the industry. Teens spit into burgers, they drop them on the floor but cook them anyway, the processing plant employees don’t always keep things as clean as possible … you get the idea. There are a lot of lofty statements about things like how disobeying the Patriot Act is the most patriotic thing you can do, and a lot of strong accusations about meat makers and those who eat fast food. And Linklater doesn’t exactly bash your head making these points. Instead he takes his typically slow and thoughful approach — though what he’s saying isn’t exactly subtle either. I mean, the most effective scenes may be those that show the abusive ways cows are killed and slaughtered (it’s inhumane, bloody, and gross, and Linklater shows it all to us). Acting is generally good across the board — the cast includes Greg Kinnear, Bobby Cannavale, Kris Kristofferson, Ethan Hawke, Avril Lavigne, and Bruce Willis — and the film is quite effective at making its points. I wouldn’t call this one of my favorite movies of the year, but it’s good and worth seeing (when it opens on November 17), and I’ll give it a B.

Incidentally, Linklater was at the screening I went to and he hung around afterwards to do a Q&A. It was, unfortunately, dominated by some politically-minded vegetarians and a B.U. film professor who sort of took the fun out of chatting up this great filmmaker, but I did learn that the processing plant scenes were shot in Mexico and that Linklater (though he grew up and still lives in Texas) has been a vegetarian since 1983, and that half the funding for the movie came from overseas because it’s predicted the film will do better there than here, and that Schlosser sought Linklater out to adapt the book, not vice versa. Personally, I would rather have also learned more about Linklater’s progression from the smaller films to bigger ones like this one, and if he’s going to continue to make more films that tackle hot button issues, but those questions will have to be asked by the reporters who’ll be interviewing him for stories soon to appear in magazines and newspapers closer to the film’s release.