Review: The Founder

The Founder
8 10

PLOT: The story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a middle-aged travelling salesman who turns a small-time hamburger joint named McDonalds into a worldwide behemoth.

REVIEW: Full disclosure: my first job ever was at McDonald’s. As a pimple-faced seventeen year old, recently slimmed down from somewhere near 250 pounds to a leaner 190, I remember vividly working as a lobby boy/cook, trying to cool it on the fast food lest I regain too much weight (to counter SUPER SIZE ME, I ate quite a bit and never regained an ounce). It was like boot camp in a way, and I’m convinced the insanity of the job (there’s never a McDonald’s that isn’t busy) means most employees never last beyond a year, but the lessons I learned there, both good and bad, served me well as a young man.

Thus, I was particularly interested in seeing a movie about the “founding” of McDonald’s, particularly with comeback king Michael Keaton in the lead. There’s a reason folks why Keaton’s movies are Oscar bait now – the guy knows his stuff and is showing a good nose for material. Ray Kroc is a great role for him, one that belongs up there with Bruce Wayne, the cokey-lead of CLEAN & SOBER and BIRDMAN.

A deceptively ingratiating figure, Kroc is complex. He’s shown early-on to be an everyman sort, struggling to make ends meet, with his loyal wife (Laura Dern) at his side, dreaming of that elusive big score. When he stumbles about Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick’s (Nick Offerman) roadside burger joint, McDonald’s, his mind is blown. A restaurant with no seats and no waiters? Food served, to go, and ready in thirty seconds, flat? All it takes is for him to see the long, fast-moving lines to know he’s struck gold, with the only roadblock being those pesky McDonald’s brothers.

Portrayed as somewhat naïve, both Mac and Dick are committed to putting out an exceptional product, with Dick’s assembly-line kitchen (which is still used at the chain) making the service fast. It’s here that THE FOUNDER really starts to cook, with Keaton’s Kroc, slowly getting more and more caught-up in building a franchise, something the brothers don’t care about. We even sympathize with Ray at first, with him having to get through the bull-headed Dick and the more sweet-natured Mac – until he starts to get successful.

It’s fascinating to watch as the tables are turned and our perspective starts to change on Ray. When the movie starts you’ll love him, but somewhere along the way that’ll turn to loathing, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where. Certainly, the callous treatment of his wife is a big part of it, but Kroc’s not portrayed as a total crook. The movie goes to great lengths to show that his ideas did indeed make McDonald’s what it became, but that end product is not at all what Mac and Dick wanted.

Other than Keaton, the cast in pretty solid, with Offerman getting to show real dramatic chops, and Lynch is likable as his nice-guy brother. Dern is as solid as always, and former “Freaks & Geeks” star Linda Cardellini gets a juicy role as the wife of one of Kroc’s franchisees (Patrick Wilson) who he sets his eyes on. B.J Novak, of “The Office” also impresses as the real estate guru who helps Kroc in his quest for control.

Working with an economical budget, director John Lee Hancock has crafted a solid biopic (I’d wager it’s his best film since THE ROOKIE), all the more impressive for its simplicity, compared his last biopic, SAVING MR. BANKS. He has a good story and the sense to simply tell it without too much fuss. It may not be flashy enough to win major awards, but it’s a well-made, intriguing piece of American history, and a must-see for anyone who likes sinking their teeth into a juicy Big Mac every now and then.

Source: JoBlo.com



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