Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions

You know, I keep telling myself there's no way I could fall more in love with this city. I mean, seriously.

But then, out of the blue, there's the unexpected late-night stroll home through the slumbering Financial District, past Chinatown and the crest of Nob Hill, and suddenly everything's twinkling lights and wrought-iron fences and the top of the Clift Hotel shining like a beacon, and there's just the right amount of crispness in the air, an excuse to pull my favorite cloche low over my eyes, and I'm smitten all over again.

The other night I saw the new film version of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation. I don't know about you, but FFN was one of those books that sucked me in like a riptide. I remember so clearly popping into Waterstone's in Edinburgh one cold dark winter night (there are a lot of those in Scotland in January), sitting down with a copy on a footstool in the corner, and not coming up for air until suddenly three hours later I'd hit the last page. I was surprised when I heard they were making a movie version, though; the material is engrossing but can be dry, and I couldn't imagine how they'd get away with making it interesting as a film.

Well, they've done it. Not only did they turn the material from a potential documentary into a fictional narrative, but it's actually strong, coherent, interesting, and even a little bit funny. Who knew? I credit Richard Linklater, the director, who of course has done fabulous things in the past with School of Rock, Before Sunset, etc. The script is passionate and yet not preachy, which I think is the major coup here. If nothing else, it will definitely smack you upside the head with a few sobering revelations. Couple of thoughts:

* Great cast: Ethan Hawke, Greg Kinnear, Bruce Willis, Wilmer Valderrama, Kris Kristofferson. Random cast member: Avril Lavigne (WTF?). Old-school cast member: remember the annoyingly precocious little girl who played Chrissy Seaver on Growing Pains? Uh, yeah - well, she's, like, 22 now, and the lead. And actually does quite well, if you can get the image of her bopping around harassing an adolescent Kirk Cameron out of your mind.

* In a city where I'm assuming something like 94% of the populace have read this book, I expected a sold-out showing. There were four people in the theater, at a 7:15 showing, and that counts Julio and me. Why aren't people seeing this? And is it true that it's only playing in art houses elsewhere? What's the deal?

* I try really hard not to be a hostile vegetarian - you know the kind I'm talking about. And this film makes its own case against animal cruelty more strongly than I ever could. So I won't go off on the animal suffering aspects here. But I will say: it does a remarkable job of portraying the ways in which our Big Mac consumption makes us complicit in other peoples' suffering, particularly, here, in the case of the migrant workers who make this low-cost meat possible. It's sobering to see the byproduct of this industry in the form of very real human casualties. And that's what I really love about the film - the way it connects the dots between what you put in your mouth and the ripple effects of that choice.

* There were a few lines that had me scrambling for my pen in the dark - so good that I didn't want to forget them: "There's SHIT in the MEAT!" - the big tagline, yeah, but god, doesn't that say so much?! Mmm, fecal matter, delicious. And then Ethan Hawke's character, the token anti-bourgeois lefty, who says: "Right now I can't think of anything more patriotic than violating the Patriot Act" (YEAH). Later, Chrissy Seaver asks him if he's happy living his countercultural life as a carpenter in Montana outside of the corporate rat race, and he replies: "I'm all right with what I'm doing...but I'm really all right with what I'm NOT doing." What a great way of seeing things.

Love it. Go see it.


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