In Fast Food Nation a teenager is stirred into action by philosophising Ethan Hawke – Richard Linklater certainly has come along way since Slacker, when all they would do is talk.
Disillusion runs through this film – even young love can’t brash it out as the American Dream disintegrates.
Greg Kinnear underplays the bright-eyed enthusiastic executive of the fast food firm whose search for the source of ‘fecal matter’ (that’s poo to me and you) in burgers leaves him less bright-eyed and slightly less eager.
As Sylvia, Catalina Sandino Moreno is wary of her new life in American, but becomes increasingly ground down during this film.
Linklater has been criticised for turning what was non-fiction into fiction, but he’s on his own firm territory here – scepticism, things not being as they seem and a whole ‘action will set you free’ agenda.
The action doesn’t even have to succeed, it just has to be done. To that end, it’s only the women – teenager Amber (Ashley Johnson) and immigrant Sylvia, who are free (except Hawke, who of course has gabbed his way through plenty of Linklater films without much action – unless you count Julie Delpy, and he only got action out of her for one night and it took two of the aforementioned films).
Even though Eric Schlosser, who wrote the original book, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, was on board to write the screenplay, there’s a fear this film is a bit of a mish-mash, neither being the great expose nor the superb theatrical comeuppance you might expect.
Then again that’s the nature of this existential trip, and if the film was European, it wouldn’t even be an issue.
Certainly, the story loses pace in the last third as we begin to realise there’s not going to be a great denouement. But that’s the nature of non-fiction.
Linklater is at his best pulling realistic dialogue out of his characters. And he seems completely at ease in the scenes with the neo-slackers, which are crisp and leave you wanting more – a bit like fast food really.
Without the Neo-realist elements of Nick Broomfield’s Ghosts, it takes on more than the food industry or immigration. Its sights are firmly set on the American Dream, and the message that it’s a shit-stained dream is finger-lickin’ good.
Fast Food Nation opens in Falmouth on Friday, Plymouth and Dartington on June 15 and Exeter on June 22. See the weekly D+CFilm arthouse roundup for details.
Posted by Cptn