Fast Food Nation Richard Linklater

It seems most obvious that Eric Schlosser’s food industry indictment Fast Food Nation would be turned into a documentary. But Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me kind of cut the legs out from the anti-McDonald’s market. Taking a novel approach (as it were), Schlosser has teamed with Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater (School of Rock, Before Sunset) to make a sprawling, Altman-esque fictional film that dramatises the circumstances of the fast food industry.

It’s an admirable attempt, too; its ambitions range from following immigrant workers who risk death to cross illegally into the U.S. to work at meat processing plants, where they again risk life and literal limb; it touches on the restaurant cashiers and cooks, the administrators and lobbyists, and generally puts a bleak face on America’s heartland. And while following workers from meeting with a "coyote” who ferries them across the Mexican border (Luis Guzman) to the factory floor workers sending money home (Wilmer Valderrama) to the marketing executives trying to boost profits, it’s all a bit "connect the dots” as a movie-going experience.

Having marketing executive Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear) trying to learn all aspects of the business and thus serve as our guide through this world is contrived, especially since no morality-based revelation is forthcoming (that would undercut the film’s whole message). What we end up with is a series of off-putting cameos ⎯ actors standing in for people who stand in for issues, there to deliver a monologue and get out: Kris Kristofferson decries the end of the American family farm; Bruce Willis sinks his teeth into "there’s always been shit in all the burgers”; Ethan Hawke shows up for some convoluted business that vaguely serves as a character-driven subplot.

However, the most arresting images of Fast Food Nation come at the end, when the killing floor is revealed in all its horrible, bloody glory. That its viscera is the most lasting image that a viewer takes away from Fast Food Nation might cause you to mistake it for a documentary after all.