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Long stretches of Whatever Works are confined to Boris’s duplex apartment and play like third-rate Kaufman and Hart. The difference is that theater actors would have had time to rehearse; these poor players rattle off their lines with the stiffness of a busy summer-stock troupe. As the girl’s southern mom, Patricia Clarkson has poise and a smoky delivery that doesn’t hide the crudeness of the writing but lets you, at least, share her pleasure in it. But it’s hard to get past the primitiveness of Allen’s fantasies. In the movie, three members of a devout Christian southern family travel to Manhattan and become, under his Jewish-atheist influence, cultured, intellectual, atheistic, and, in one case, gay. He saves their souls—but they reject him. It’s almost like he’s … Oh, Christ.

After an hour and a half of sighing, wincing, and clucking over the manifold outrages portrayed in Robert Kenner’s Food, Inc., I gave up the thought of “reviewing” the documentary and decided, instead, to exhort you: See it. Bring your kids if you have them. Bring someone else’s kids if you don’t. The message is nothing new if you’ve read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation or Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (both are in the film). But every frame makes you choke on your popcorn—if for no other reason than the focus on government-underwritten corn and the companies who put it into everything from soda to Midol to the gassy, E. coli–ridden bellies of factory-farmed cows. The sheer scale of the movie is mind-blowing—it touches on every aspect of modern life. It’s the documentary equivalent of The Matrix: It shows us how we’re living in a simulacrum, fed by machines run by larger machines with names like Monsanto, Perdue, Tyson, and the handful of other corporations that make everything. We humans can win, but we should hurry, before Monsanto makes a time machine and sends back a Terminator to get rid of Schlosser and Pollan.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
Directed by Tony Scott.
Columbia Pictures. R.

Whatever Works
Directed by Woody Allen.
Sony Pictures Classics. PG-13.

Food, Inc.
Directed by Robert Kenner.
Magnolia Pictures. PG.

E-mail: filmcritic@newyorkmag.com.


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