Fast Food Nation

Year: 2006
Production Co: Participant Productions
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: Richard Linklater
Producer: Malcolm McLaren
Writer: Richard Linklater/Eric Schlosser
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Ashley Johnson, Luis Guzman, Bruce Willis, Kris Kristofferson, Avril Lavigne, Esai Morales, Lou Taylor Pucci, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette
The pitch was perfect; take one of the most incendiary exposes of the junk food industry in Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, attach one of the most credible anti-establishment writer/directors to adapt and film it in Richard Linklater, and come up with a manifesto for everything that's wrong in the Western world where culture, commerce and food production collide.

Schlosser's book used the simple fast food hamburger as a jumping off point to highlight everything wrong with how it reaches your table; itinerant workers from Mexico, the meatpackers with loose morals and every looser safety practices who employs them, the virtual slave labour conditions of staff, the treatment of the livestock that ends up in the food and the health implications of the race to the bottom line.

Schlosser had McDonald's in his sights (the reason for their second big PR defensive after Supersize Me a couple of years back) but Linklater - undoubtedly backed by the litigation-aware producers - has created fictional burger chain Mickey's and breathed life into the sorry tale by recasting it as a fictional story centred on a few personalities who orbit the industry and reveal the sordid truth to us.

The result is a film not nearly as effective as it could have been. Storylines are dropped for no reason, Linklater can't help shoehorning his favourite slacker muse Ethan Hawke into the narrative where there isn't really a place for him, and the whole project would have been better served by a documentary divided into chapters like The Corporation.

Worth watching for the sentiment, but don't let the downfall of the execution cause you to forget how important the subject matter is to know.

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