It’s fictional, though loosely based on a non-fictional book by the same name by Eric Schlosser. The original book set out to point out the unsavoury aspects of fast food – everything from the way labourers (in this film, illegal Mexican immigrants) at the meat factories are treated, to the gross stuff that ends up in the meat, through to the way that fast food just seems to represent a deadening of the American spirit in the lives of young people.
The way Linklater gets these points across is just by following various characters, all loosely connected to the restaurant chain Mickeys in the mid-west town where the meatworks is located.
Because Linklater isn’t afraid to preach, some of the scenes just consist of long conversations between characters, talking about the state of society. Others, such as the stories of the Mexicans, have far less conversation, but the events we are witness to are quite harrowing.
Ultimately, does it work? I’m not sure. On the whole, it seems more like a series of vignettes than a cohesive film. The actors (and there are a mixture of huge-name and small-name actors in this film) all do an exceptional job, and people act far more like normal people than the standard Hollywood cliches of characters that I’ve seen. But I don’t know if it actually achieves anything.
There’s a scene which I think sums up the film, where a bunch of young school kids unsuccessfully try to free hundreds of cows from a pen, only to find that the cows don’t want to leave. They’re left wondering if there’s anything they can do to change society. I think Linklater is kind of feeling the same way. He’s made a film, but so what?
Do people really not know that fast food is unhealthy and possibly even unhygienic? Even if they did, would they stop eating it?
I’m not really sure. But as a start to the conversation, there are worse places to begin than this film. And, especially, I would recommend Christians (even if they don’t want to watch this movie – and it does have strong, unpleasant content) start to think about how we relate to fast food. The Bible has a fair bit to say about food, but it’s one of the least talked about topics in Christian circles. (To the point where I hear some people laughing when they go past the aisle in Koorong bookstore that has all the diet and fitness books. Sure, a lot of these books have two millimetres of Biblical depth to them, but why aren’t those of who know better addressing these issues?)
3 1/2 out of 5