The Founder (2017)
Signed up the 05/04/2017
An initial nod to the irony of this film is evident in its title. The Founder is a biopic about the creation of the McDonald's fast food empire as implemented by Ray Kroc, portrayed here by Michael Keaton — who offers a truly magnetic performance as the mastermind behind one of the most ubiquitous brands in the history of the whole world. Keaton stars in this film with Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch, who portray Dick and Mac McDonald, the founders of the original McDonald's restaurant and creators of the revolutionary fast food delivery system that forever changed the way people consume takeout food, from whom it was eventually taken by Kroc.
I thought that perhaps one of the finest achievements of the screenplay and direction was the intimacy the story keeps with its subject. Though it is about the creation of an empire and the events that led to it, the film focuses more closely on the man behind the events rather than the empire itself. The fast food chain is considered a consequence of the man and his capacity to see what it could become and his will to make it so, and not the other way around. Keaton's Ray Kroc occupies two diametrically opposed spheres of what makes a man in the imaginations of people in the world of neoliberal economics; the good of a man willing to lift himself up by the bootstraps and do whatever necessary to succeed and create a life for himself, and the greed of a man whose ambition far outweighs his desire to be a good, fair or just man to those around him. He is never Superman-good nor Joker-bad, but rather simultaneously embodies the qualities in both that we admire and detest.
The first act of this film establishes Kroc as a struggling, hardworking salesman who drives from town to town, city to city and state to state trying to sell milkshake machines to proprietors of small diners and drive-ins and other service outlets, who gets the door slammed in his face wherever he goes. His wife, Ethel, is portrayed by Laura Dern, who, despite very limited screen time, convincingly and effectively portrays the bored housewife to this energetic salesman. Kroc's frustration with his work and life compound and continue unabated until he receives an order for six of his milkshake machines from two brothers running a small restaurant in California. During a call to the brothers to confirm their order and make sure they didn't make a mistake, they inform that they're going to require eight milkshake machines and, baffled by what kind of operation would require eight milkshake machines, Kroc drives nearly halfway across the country to see the place for himself. Upon arrival, he finds a very busy restaurant with enormous amounts of foot traffic, people eating their food from disposable containers and plastics with no flatware or even seating and is both astonished and confused. What makes the greatest impression on him, however, is the absence of a jukebox, people smoking cigarettes, bikers etc and the presence of whole families eating there, who are all expressing palpable joy and satisfaction at the food. The brothers, after meeting him, offer to give him a full tour of the restaurant and it's operations, introducing him to the efficient system that allows them to deliver food to customers in thirty seconds. Intoxicated by this revelation, he suggests that they franchise the restaurant and the story of how the McDonald's we all know begins in earnest.
The Founder isn't a flawless film — the score is uninteresting and the script tends to oscillate between gratuitous exposition and being vaguely suggestive — but it is certainly worth the watch. Michael Keaton's engrossing, electric performance gives this low-key, somewhat slow story some much needed inertia and delivers an ultimately satisfying product.
Post a reply