A McDonald's training manual, supplied as evidence from the film "Hot Coffee". Photo by Martina Radwan
Sundance Film Festival
Director: Susan Saladoff
We’ve all heard the tale about the elderly woman, Stella Liebeck, who spilt McDonald’s coffee in her lap while driving and was awarded over $2 million in compensation from the subsequent lawsuit. It was immortalized on “Seinfeld” with the character Kramer enduring a similar accident, which is exactly how “Hot Coffee” opens. However, as with many renowned stories that spreads by word of mouth, the actual facts of the case are lost in the clutter and director Susan Saladoff sifts through the confusion and provides the details in a mind-blowing documentary that also discusses the mistreatment of the American consumer and how large corporations will do anything and everything possible to restrict costumers’ access to the legal system. It’s entertaining to witness random individuals retell Liebeck’s story with incorrect information and the surprising look on their faces once corrected. Along with the coffee chaos, the stories of doctors’ malpractice lawsuits and the rape of a Halliburton employee who is denied access to the court system embody the majority of Saladoff’s project and infuriates as much as educates. For anyone who becomes confused or exasperated by the ins and outs of the legal system and all of its jargon, Saladoff lays out the perplexing information in a fashion anyone can enjoy with simplified yet informational graphs and well-educated interviews. By the end of the credits, you’ll be so informed and infuriated, you’ll be ready to take on big business all by yourself.