Richard Linklater's Fast Food Nation fictionalizes Eric Schlosser's investigative tome into an intermittently spirited, engaging drama with sharp dialogue and a diverse, estimable cast.
The cinema verite approach is eschewed in favor of the interlocking with thematic elements that calls to mind recent superior efforts like Silver City and Syriana.
This ambitious, sprawling tale is nominally set in Cody, Colorado where people like Amber (Ashley Johnson) works at Mickey's, the hambuger chain where "happy Americans eat."
Linklater and Schlosser penned a script with feeling for the immigration issue between the U.S. and Mexico, unfortunately straining to get over the stereotypes in frying larger fish than the industry that nets consumers who aren't just teenagers.
We see people like Raul (Wilmer Valderrama), Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno of Maria Full of Grace), his wife, and her sister Coco (Ana Claudia Talancon) getting help from a "coyote" (Bobby Cannavale of Shall We Dance?). These illegals will be set up in a meat-processing plant in Colorado where a California-based Mickey's marketing executive (Greg Kinnear of Little Miss Sunshine) will be checking out some telling health tests of what ends up in the final product.
Linklater, who utilized the interpolation rotoscoping method to interesting effect in A Scanner Darkly, maybe has a less pungent, unappetizing sensibility though much of the roles inhabit a perserverance and strength hardly mitigating the multi-conglomerate truly envisioned as the heart of the exploitative consumer machine.
Maybe too much of it all has that one-dimensional feel, even bits for well-named actors like Bruce Willis and Ethan Hawke, though some have plenty to chew on in their short shrift.
Viable queries are raised as the voracious lines and initially droll tone as things gradually get more serious-minded understanding "there's a reason why it only costs 99 cents."
Fast Food Nation has a naturalistic, hand-held look that generally has sympathetic characters, some suspense and humorous snippets as the shock begins to take hold. Although, in finding out who's really culpable here the filmmakers never distinctively profits in the manner of Super Size Me or the classic muckraking expose from Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle."