Review: Fast Food Nation (2006)

FastFoodNationWorkers

Ah, this film, this film was responsible for a major shift in my life!

Written By: Richard Linklater & Eric Schlosser
Directed By: Richard Linklater

I am a vegetarian, but I wasn’t always one. I came home from work late one day, about a year ago, and turned on the TV for some background noise while I tried to not hurt all over. The background noise was a movie already in progress called Fast Food Nation. Over the next hour I was disgusted and interested by what I saw and that night I decided I would go through with my plans of becoming a vegetarian and see where that took me. It’s a year later and I am still a vegetarian and while it was tough at first now I don’t miss meat products in any way. Fast Food Nation affected my life in a good way, but this is the first time I am seeing the entire movie, does the film hold up to the positive attributes I have attached to it?

It does and it doesn’t. At times I love what Richard Linklater does with Fast Food Nation. I was especially impressed with the first hour, the subtlety contained within. Linklater presents ideas and thoughts but doesn’t feel the need to do so in a ham fisted way. There are more moments of quiet subtle observations than there are loud look at me moments. By taking this approach Linklater allows you to think for yourself and make your own decisions. This tact is not followed to the end, the second half is much heavier and overt and loses something in the transition. The information goes from matter of fact to feeling like an infomercial.

Another area of consternation was the acting. The main actors are all fine in their roles, but there is one noticeable performance that bugged the heck out of me and some perplexing extras. On the extra tip, they stared straight into the camera far too much, a small thing, but annoying. The larger issue is the main actor who bugged me, and no, it wasn’t Avril Lavigne. The cameo by Brice Willis threw me for a loop. I liked that Linklater was allowing for the other side to be heard, but Willis portrays his character so over the top and as such a larger than life figure that he is automatically cast as the villain. That scene did the most damage to the movie for me, it was overt, too obvious and unneeded.

Fast Food Nation tries to touch on many subjects, and it succeeds for the most part. I do feel that it stretches itself too thin in a few areas, mainly the young fast food workers, but it does touch on all the subjects it brings forth in an acceptable fashion. Could it have been a bit tighter, sure, but I don’t think the film was damaged in any way by its sprawling nature. It takes on a lot of characters and a lot of issues and gives them all their own beginning, middle and end. These markers don’t always equate with the same points in the film itself, but they shouldn’t have to, the arc of a character shouldn’t be tied down to the arc of the film.

When you remove my personal history with Fast Food Nation you are still left with a great movie. It is thought provoking, layered and sprawling. it isn’t a perfect movie and it does have some moments where it will lose even its most ardent supporters. However, those moments don’t damage the film that much and leave a great feature to take in. Fast Food Nation may not be pleasant to watch, but it’s essential viewing in my eyes.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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