Fast Food Nation The film is based on Eric Schlosser’s nonfiction book, which was published in 2001 and rapidly became a New York Times bestseller. Some may remember the author from a fascinating and illuminating interview he did with Morgan Spurlock, which was released as one of the bonus features on the Super Size Me DVD. Schlosser’s book is a take-no-prisoners expose of the fast food industry’s dark (and big) underbelly. Exhaustively researched, it investigates and absolutely demolishes any myths about the business. One of the key ideas Schlosser explores in the book is mass production and mass consumption and the outright willingness of fast food distributors to make a profit at the expense of their employees’ working conditions as well as their customers’ health.
Director Richard Linklater, who is responsible for such memorable contributions to the world of cinema as Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, and Before Sunset, helmed the picture. Admittedly, he is not interested in making documentaries so while his film is based on Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and much of the research found therein, it is a dramatic feature. Linklater wanted to get the point across through human storytelling and, as a result, Fast Food Nation is essentially a character study set in the fast food industry. The Oscar nominated writer-director worked on the screenplay together with Schlosser. The film was shown at the recent Cannes Film Festival as part of the competition and received generally positive reviews. Since Linklater’s sci-fi thriller A Scanner Darkly was also screened at Cannes, out of competition, he has earned the unique distinction of being the only director to ever have two of his features shown simultaneously at the infamous festival.
The ensemble cast is quite spectacular and makes it rather difficult to discuss any one individual in particular, especially since the film will probably focus on each character relatively equally. Perhaps the underrated Greg Kinnear can be singled out in the everyman role as Don Henderson. In the film, his character will undergo a transformation from being a conscience-free executive to becoming a brand new human being that looks at his immediate universe from a fresh perspective. Perhaps the part is a bit clichéd, but I believe that Kinnear can give an understated performance that the audience will be able to relate to. As if the list of famous names was not enough, there will be some stars making cameos. Bruce Willis shares a scene with Kinnear and reportedly his speech makes quite an impact.
Like the book, the film will tie fast food to a multitude of problems, including the nation’s obesity epidemic, the subsequent health problems, cultural homogenization, and the decline of small farmers. Of course, the overall theme of globalization is likely to be touched upon as well. Although this country’s illegal alien problem has been a hot topic lately, the film will only depict the workers’ environment rather than take a stand on the issue or comment on it. Actual footage of cattle being slaughtered will probably nauseate the average viewers, but those feelings may shift into a disturbing uneasiness when the film recreates some of the cruel treatment the animals endure prior to their death. All these things and more have understandably caused concerned fast food companies to rally against this movie. In order to keep any controversy to a minimum, Linklater actually decided to shoot the film under a camouflage title Coyote.
There truly is something fascinating about America’s insatiable appetite for fast food. As Morgan Spurlock argued in Super Size Me, it may be due to the food’s almost unreal taste, which has more in common with genetic engineering than it has with natural cooking. As someone who generally avoids meat, I must admit that my mind wondered to thoughts of White Castle even as I wrote on this unpleasant subject. You can rest assured that I will pay that place a visit very soon (so much for willpower). I expect that Fast Food Nation will look at the situation as a whole and show moments that are both disturbing and darkly funny for the same reason – because they are true. Some may find it shocking, others will be amused, and others still may find it a bit sad.