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FAST FOOD NATION

Director: RICHARD LINKLATER

U.K.-U.S.A. • 2006 • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 114 MIN


WRITER ERIC SCHLOSSER TURNED DOWN DOCUMENTARY FILM-MAKERS APPROACHING HIS EXCORIATING NON-FICTION BEST-SELLER FAST FOOD NATION: THE DARK SIDE OF THE AMERICAN MEAL, OPTING INSTEAD FOR THE COMMUNICATIVE POTENCY OF A NARRATIVE FEATURE WHEN HE JOINED DIRECTOR RICHARD LINKLATER IN TRANSLATING THE BOOK’S WIDE-RANGING FOOD-INDUSTRY EXPOSE INTO A DRAMATIC STORYLINE.
As you might expect, the results don’t quite conform to Hollywood formula, yet the film-makers’ conscientious desire to get as many wide-ranging points across as they can offers a zealously informed alternative. Fresh from Little Miss Sunshine, Greg Kinnear turns in another stellar portrait of white-collar anxiety as a marketing exec from the Mickey’s restaurant chain—home of ‘The Big One’—who’s sent to a Colorado processing plant to investigate worryingly high levels of faecal matter in the burgers.
He’s worried by what he sees, yet concerned to hold on to his job as well, though his dilemma pales beside the daily travails of the plant’s undocumented Mexican workforce (among them Catalina Sandino Moreno from Maria Full of Grace). They’re doing an unpalatable job the locals won’t touch, getting exploited by the scheming foreman (roguish Bobby Cannavale), but economic imperatives leave them without a choice.
Knowing this is wrong is one thing, bringing about change clearly another, as high-schooler Ashley Johnson, who works in the local Mickey’s branch, is about to find out. Linklater’s film is provocatively sceptical about translating idealism into effective action, yet leaves us with a shocking final sequence clearly designed to leave us doubting whether we’ll ever touch a corporate burger again.—Trevor Johnston.

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