Based on the book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, the film Fast Food Nation is a dramatic portrayal of America’s relationship with fast food—burgers, fries, chicken tenders, shakes—and the companies that cook and sell it, the meat-processing plants that make it available, the animals that provide it, and the workers that prepare it. When a marketing executive for Mickey’s Burgers learns of tests that show his company’s Big One burgers are tainted with fecal matter, he travels to Cody, Colorado, to inspect Uni-Globe Meat Packing, the supplier of the hamburger patties. At the same time, several Mexicans who have just illegally crossed over the border are hired to work at Uni-Globe as meat cutters and cleaners. And a young cashier at a Mickey’s Burgers franchise joins with a group of newfound friends to free cows awaiting slaughter from their holding pen. The three plotlines converge, but the filmmakers have chosen realism over drama, and the actions and decisions of the individual characters have little if any lasting effect.
Although animal-slaughtering scenes don’t occur until the end of the film, Fast Food Nation is not a movie that will whet your appetite. Indeed, from the mention of feces-contaminated hamburger in the opening scenes to the depiction of an undocumented worker losing his leg in the meat-processing plant, the film causes viewers to ask if they want to participate in any way in this “machine” that seems to have taken control of America’s eating habits.
Debi Anderson: Well, I guess it is a marketing issue. If the kids die from eating your burgers, it makes them much harder to sell.
Don Anderson: Marketing 101. Don’t kill the customer. Bad for repeat business.
Rudy Martin: By the way, Don, you seem like a nice fella. But the food your company sells is crap—total crap—even when there isn’t manure in it.
Harry Rydell: It is a sad fact of life, Don. But the truth is … we all have to eat a little shit from time to time.
Americans spend more than $140 billion annually at fast food “restaurants”; the U.S. fast-food market is the world’s largest, with China’s second. The average American spends more than $20,000 on fast food in a lifetime; about 25 percent of Americans visit a fast-food restaurant every day. The 3.5 million fast-food workers in the United States represent the largest group of minimum-wage earners.
Released November 17, 2006
Starring Greg Kinnear as Don Anderson, Bruce Willis as Harry Rydell, Ethan Hawke as Pete, Patricia Arquette as Cindy, Kris Kristofferson as Rudy Martin, Bobby Cannavale as Mike, Luis Guzmán as Benny, Ashley Johnson as Amber, Paul Dano as Brian, Catalina Sandino Moreno as Sylvia, Ana Claudia Talancón as Coco, Wilmer Valderrama as Raul, and Avril Lavigne as Alice
Directed by Richard Linklater
Written by Eric Schlosser and Richard Linklater, based on the book Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser