To those who have read Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, a dramatic adaptation does not seem like a natural next step. I was dubious, too, until I heard Richard Linklater was directing. If anyone could pull it off, he could. Linklater weaves together several storylines to show the realities of the fast food industry Schlosser outlined in his book.
Greg Kinnear stars as Don Anderson, a marketing director at Mickey's, a nation-wide fast food company which has recently found a lot of success with its "Big One" burger. His boss tells him that there is too much...er..."poo-poo" in their meat, and sends Don out to discover why.
Raul (Wilmer Valderrama) and Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno) sneak over the U.S. border from Mexico. At the end of their difficult journey, they end up in Colorado working at a beef processing plant, the very one that produces the "ca-ca"-laden patties for Mickey's. Sylvia finds it not to her liking and quits after a day. At first the plant looks pristine and not at all as terrible as we suspect it may be. This is the part of the plant they show Don when he comes for a tour. Once they show the rats, the facade is crumbling and we begin to learn the truth.
We also follow bright high school student Amber (Ashley Johnson), working behind the counter at a Mickey's near the beef plant. After Amber hangs out with some college kids, she begins to think she's wasting her life at Mickey's, and she gets out before she makes the mistake of making it a career. Amber's co-worker Brian (Paul Dano) spits in burgers, drops frozen patties on the floor and uses them, and discusses with another co-worker the best way to rob Mickey's.
I can't think of a better way to dramatize Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, but a great deal of information is necessarily missing: the birth and evolution of the fast food industry and all the amazing innovations that have come about because of it; present-day fast food companies that treat their employees well and produce a quality product; and the devastating effects of E. coli 0157:H7 on customers who eat poopie-tainted meat.
The one warning I have for the potential viewer is the film's final scene. Sylvia must find work at the beef plant once more, so she manages to get in pulling kidneys on the kill-floor. The kill floor is just as pleasant as it sounds, but Linklater is kind enough to not dwell on the macabre procedures.
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