The Founder (2017)
D: John Lee Hancock. W: Robert D. Seigel. DP: John Schwartzman. Starring: Michael Keaton/Nick Offerman/John Carroll Lynch/Laura Dern/B.J. Novak/Patrick Wilson/Linda Cardellini.
The anti-hero roles for Michael Keaton continue with his new turn as McDonald’s Corporation founder Ray Kroc in the film The Founder. Even if you are ignorant of the bulldozing story of the actual McDonald’s creators you must be suspect of a man whose name basically sounds like crook.
Director John Lee Hancock (2013’s Saving Mr. Banks, 2009’s The Blind Side) deftly navigates the film that focuses on Ray’s continued failures as a door to door salesman. Ray is currently selling milkshake mixers when an order for six mixers takes him by surprise. And literally across the country as he drives out to California from the Midwest to see what these McDonald brothers are all about. Immediately impressed and catatonic over their revolutionary setup and ‘fast food,’ Ray begins his takeover.
Keaton holds the film exclusively, often talking directly into the camera as he practices speeches. After 2014’s Birdman this is a natural fit for him and he plays Ray with a ferocious energy that is unlikable, mostly unredeeming, but with a layer of of commitment that is painstakingly admirable. Unfortunately, the female roles in the film are left to be archetypes of the shrewd nagging first wife (Laura Dern) and the blonde bombshell second wife (Linda Cardinelli). No mention of his children leave a hole in a portrait that could have been more gripping.
Ultimately, The Founder‘s heart lies in the McDonalds brothers played by the always superb Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch (who plays President Lyndon Johnson in Jackie). Clearly you are meant to feel for the fate of their life’s work being franchised to the point of nonrecognition. Yet the brothers serve as an analogy of the well meaning ideals of the American dream. A home owned business that services communities with quality rather than gross consumerism for the sake of profit. As American politics is lead by a corporate giant its curious that a film that actually reveals the original rooted neighborhood intentions of a corporate empire tells the story through the winner’s point of view.
The Founder brings little to the biopic that is new, but does pull a performance from Keaton that is worth seeing. I wonder how much of the In & Out burger franchise of the West Coast is similar to the original McDonald’s model. Only burgers, fries, and milkshakes are offered from a chain that is now considered above the rest of its fast food compatriots.