Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Film: Fast Food Nation is Crap-Tacular

Whenever I go and screen films I often write down notes as I watch to remember what I was feeling when I watched the movie, which really helps on those weeks that I have a grip of junkets/ films to watched all mixed together and I don't remember which way is up...this week wasn't so bad, I only had three, among them Richard Linklater's forthcoming Fast Food Nation. Scheduled for release on November 17th and inspired by Eric Schlosser's book of the same name, FFN takes a look at where the meat used in those popular .99 cent hamburgers come from and the people involved with getting it to your 'hood in a timely, expeditious manner...The film follows Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear), a marketing executive who works for the fictional hamburger chain "Mickey's". As the storyline maintains, it's brought to Don's attention that the meat used in their burgers is contaminated, compelling him to investigate the matter further and takes him to Cody, Colorado where the meat distributor's slaughterhouses are located and an education on how the beef industry operates is in the offing.

In addition to the above, Fast Food Nation follows two other side stories that are interlaced with Don's . The first observes the plight of two Mexican illegals, Raul (Wilmer Valderrama) and his wife Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno) as they cross the American border in search of gainful employment as the de riguer cast of coyotes (people smugglers) and dirtbag factory superiors step in a fuck over everyone in sight which all congeal into a story that's nothing to write home about. Ashley Johnson is the protagonist for the story that tails her character, Amber, a teenage cashier at a Mickey's franchise in Cody, who slowly gets the zap on her head about the causality that the ways that big biz is really run and it's effect on the public as a whole which leads her and her friend Alice (Avril Lavigne) to fight the power the only way they know how. The end.

The premise of Richard Linklater's tryptych promises to enlighten it's audience as the viewer finds himself searching for the fast forward button as the by-the-numbers script unfolds-- the sequences are entertwined and a "Where the Day Takes You" thrust is reached for but never attained. Five years ago, Fast Food Nation would've been timely but the ubiquitous news coverage of that industry and mad cow scares of late gives the premise of FFN a day-late-and-a-dollar-short feel. And, subject matter notwithstanding, the film has a really hard time getting off the ground-- the most memorable performances are made by people making cameos (Bruce Willis, Ethan Hawke and Kris Kristofferson, respectively) but all of the cameos in the world can't help this film get its footing which is a shame. I've liked Linklater flicks like Slacker, Dazed and Confused and Before sunrise/ Before Sunset...I was even into School of Rock but I think dude's getting soft in his old age. Although the film might be informative to anyone who's been living in, say, the Klondike hinterlands for the past decade there's nothing in Fast Food Nation which wasn't covered in Faces of Death 20 years ago...been there, bought the T-shirt and soundtrack...if you must see a new Richard Linklater flick, go to a matinee...

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