A craving that gets the best of a lot of us, McDonald’s usually makes us feel a bit gross after ingesting a Big Mac meal, quarter pounder with cheese or anything else off that menu. Well, the new film The Founder looks to add to the guilt factor of that body lethargy as it outlines how this billion dollar empire with over a billion customers served is all due to one greedy salesman deviously pulling the rug out from under two local business owners just for their business model and name. Will it stop you from grabbing an Egg McMuffin in the morning? Probably not, but you will think about it every time you order, I’m pretty sure.
Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) was a struggling milkshake machine salesman grinding his way across America, trying with all of his smooth talking and sales charm, to sell his wares for a doting wife (Laura Dern) back home. After hearing that a San Bernadino burger joint ordered four of the mixers, Kroc makes his way to the restaurant, purely out of curiosity. There he finds the two brothers, Mack and Dick McDonald, have broken the mold for how the industry works, having orders made in thirty-seconds with completely disposable packaging. Seeing an opportunity for massive growth, Kroc urges them to open themselves up for franchising and inserts himself in the company. Little do Mack and Dick know that Kroc will eventually find legally devious ways to push them out of their own business.
Michael Keaton again puts a performance on the big screen that shows how much he was robbed of an Academy Award a couple years back for Birdman. His portrayal of the dastardly underhanded Ray Kroc is the big driving force of The Founder. John Lee Hancock’s direction of the film is a very paint by numbers method but Keaton’s work makes this story stand out from the pack. Matched up against the real person, the mannerisms are dead on and the inner selfishness of Kroc on film looks to be never far from the surface. As McDonalds’ popularity grows, Ray Kroc’s thirst for power, cutting corners and growing empire have an obviously power hungry result on the once lowly salesman and Keaton plays this with a veteran proficiency.
The look of this film is impeccable, inserting you seamlessly into the time period, much as Hancock did with his last film, the Mary Poppins behind the scenes biopic, Saving Mr. Banks. It looks like director is custom suited for these time era real life based films, something I’m much more in favor of, as I despised his Sandra Bullock award winner, The Blind Side. I would say that the weakest point, one that isn’t that noticble, is the lack of flair from the filmmaker but I think that, in the end, it’s best to not have anything distract from Kroc’s battle to claim something that isn’t his and really bring home the heartbreak of the two McDonald brothers, played so well by veteran character actor John Carroll Lynch and usual funnyman Nick Offerman. If anything were to come from this, I would hope it’d be a statue for Mr. Keaton and a global knowledge of how Ray Kroc’s legacy should have a large overshadowing asterix of the theft from two hard working California men. 4.5/5