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“Fast Food Nation.”

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Suiting up for the kill floor.
Eric Schlosser knows that people don’t like to be preached at. His snappy bestseller is fundamentally a critique of unchecked capitalism, but told in approachably muckraking, sometimes lurid segments: fat American children (troubling!), overwhelming franchise sameness (eerie!), unsafe meatpacking factories (frightening!), underpaid teenagers (saddish!), chemical flavorings and factory-like slaughterhouses (gross!).

The decision to make "Fast Food Nation" a narrative film instead of the expected doc is, in that sense, right in line with the spirit of the book. And Richard Linklater, who’s done sprawling with effortless aplomb before, seems like a good fit as a director. But the road to tedium is paved with good intentions, and "Fast Food Nation" is a flat film, one with a fine heart and no pulse.

The film has archetypal characters standing in for each fast food-related ill, most played by someone famous or soon to be. There’s the trio of illegal immigrants who end up laboring at the slaughterhouse (Catalina Sandino Moreno, Ana Claudia Talancón, Wilmer Valderrama). There are the bored behind-the-counter teenagers (Paul Dano, Ashley Johnson). There are the complicit corporate types (Greg Kinnear, Bruce Willis). There are the college-age activists (Avril Lavigne, Lou Taylor Pucci) and the starting-to-look-a-little-drawn activists (Ethan Hawke). There are the ones in the industry, both responsible (Kris Kristofferson) and not-so-responsible (Bobby Cannavale). And on. There are no villains; everyone is equipped with a contradiction or two, which can pass as actual characterization if you squint.

"Fast Food Nation" is too sprawling and studied to engage as a narrative or a portrait of ailing working-class semi-urban life (the film is set in fictional Cody, CO, a convincing spread of autocentric Americana with strip malls instead of a downtown). Linklater seems to have suppressed his directorial urges in the interests of earnestness — it’s only when Hawke bounces in as a talky, free-spirited cabinet maker that it seems like his film at all. But if the film is meant to be more of a serviceable vehicle for a call to action (and that’s certainly seems to be the intent of the storyline surrounding Johnson’s gradually awakening high schooler), that call’s not going to reach any further than it would have as a doc. One imagines that, like the overly naive marketer played by Kinnear, most of the audience members seeing this will sigh, shake their heads, agree that it’s a terrible thing and go on, content that they, at least, get their meals from Whole Foods.

[What an odd career niche Catalina Sandino Moreno is occupying! This is the third film in which she’s offered herself up as the serenely suffering, symmetrical face of a developing-world madonna. We hope she gets to shoot someone in her next role. Ah, but likely not.]

Opens November 17th in limited release.

+ "Fast Food Nation" (Fox Searchlight)

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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