The Founder - This Movie "You Want Fries With That?" Rocks
Dir: John Lee Hancock
Starring Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Laura Dern, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, B. J. Novak
Hancock’s look at what is essentially the beginning of fast food – or “speedy” as it's called here – is an interesting story. But, not, as this film reveals, a great story.
To help it aspire to greatness, it has Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the travelling salesman who stumbled upon the roadside diner of the McDonald brothers and saw in it a revolution, not only in the way we eat, but in the very fabric of the American Dream. Every town he ever drove through had a courthouse with a flag outside, a church with a cross on top – why not a McDonalds with the golden arches? Turns out he was pretty much on the money. (As the end titles inform us, McDonalds feeds 1% of the global population every day.)
Keaton’s Kroc starts as a slightly desperate, slightly grubby hustler. But a man with a vision nonetheless - initially a vision to franchise the brothers’ work, but later on a desire to cut them out of their own invention and take all the credit for himself. (Note how the quality of his suits progress throughout.)
Yet, despite such potential drama, Hancock, Keaton and the film shy away from painting Kroc as some sort of Machiavellian business shark. He’s just a guy who saw an opportunity, did well with it, and then got a bit more ruthless than he should have. But even Dick and Mac McDonald (both splendidly played by Offerman and Carroll Lynch) came out of everything with a million dollars in their pockets. So ultimately, the drawback of the story and the film itself, is a lack of drama. It’s an interesting story, but ultimately a slight one.
That said, everyone on hand is determined to lend it more gravitas that it probably deserves. Keaton, who opens and closes the film with a direct to camera sales pitch is superb, further evidence of his more than welcome comeback, but (inevitably) not the career-redefining work of Birdman. Cardellini, Wilson, Novak and Dern all add welcome weight to the piece, and, as stated above, both Offerman and Carroll Lynch add a certain offbeat charm and, ultimately, genuine pathos to proceedings.
There’s no shame (though some irony) to be found in the fact that ultimately this movie resembles the fast food it chronicles – it’s perfectly fine, completely functional, even quite satisfying at times. But it’s not the best meal you’ve ever had.
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