“How the hell does a fifty two year old, over-the-hill milkshake machine salesman build a fast food empire with 16,000 restaurants, in 50 states, in 5 foreign countries. With an annual revenue of in the neighbourhood of $700,000,000.00? One word. Persistence.” – Ray Kroc, The Founder (2016).
Something I enjoy watching more and more these days is anything from the biopic genre. It seems I’m also on an accidental Michael Keaton binge, thankfully I spelt his name right this time around. But don’t worry, I won’t be going out of my way to buy Birdman (2014) or any other Keaton films. This is just a happy little coincidence that he was in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) too.
The plot is simple enough I suppose. Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) stumbles upon a local fast food restaurant, McDonald’s. It’s owned by brothers Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac (John Carroll Lynch). The three work together to bring McDonald’s to all of America. As far as I am aware, this film is fairly accurate to the real life events of Ray Kroc and the McDonald’s brothers. Let’s be fair, I’m the general public, I probably represent a great portion of the audience when it comes to this film. Not knowing the entire history, or in fact every tasting a McDonald’s burger will not matter when watching this film.
Michael Keaton as usual gives a brilliant performance as eventual McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. He works extremely well alongside Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch. There are a number of smaller characters in the film. Although, these are the three that take up the most screen time. Keaton himself definitely does look like Ray Kroc to me, and above all he can play the part of the businessman well. His opening speech and of course the finale of the film are two parallels that are just fantastic.
See, to make Kroc a good character, Keaton has to play a variety of scenes in a number of different ways. He has to jump from frustration to elation at almost a moment’s notice and he does in fact pull this off incredibly well. When he first orders his McDonald’s meal and there’s the confusion on his face, that’s the showings of a good actor. I can’t see anybody other than Michael Keaton playing Ray Kroc, he’s perfect.
I’d say this is arguably Nick Offerman’s biggest film role since The LEGO Movie (2014) and he strives in this opportunity. He was brilliant on Parks and Recreation (2009 – 2015), and seeing him on the big screen was great. I usually have a look at the cast and synopsis of a film while the adverts before the film are on. Seeing that Nick Offerman was not only in this film but a major supporting actor probably made me enjoy this film a lot more than I should have.
The on screen relationship between Dick and Mac for me was a definite highlight. Dick seems to take the forefront of the action throughout this film, with Mac more or less taking a supporting role for the majority of the film. The two do get a good, but not fully fleshed out character arc, which is definitely more you can ask for. They’re both acted and presented very well.
For me, both Keaton and Offerman were the highlights of this movie for me. It was definitely a bonus to see Patrick Wilson in there, mainly because I spent last weekend watching The Conjuring (2013). It was nice to see him open up a restaurant rather than fight a creepy doll and some demons. What a change of pace for the guy I suppose.
The direction of the film is great, that’s as simple as I can put it. See, for this film to be a successful biopic then it would need to provide us with the basis of all past events leading up to the current date of the film. They do this, quite simply, through a sort of montage that is told to us by the two brothers. It isn’t done by referring to you the viewer though, it’s actually incorporated into the plot through Keaton’s character. It’s very well done, and for someone going into this biopic blind, it was definitely a big help. Truthful or not, I don’t care, it provided a good basis for the film.
See, The Founder was always interesting to me because I’ve got a certain interest in food related films. Chef (2014) is probably the biggest giveaway of that fact, especially now that it is one of my favourite films. But what I found I wanted more than anything was to be able to delve further into the details of the restaurant. How is the layout presented? What can we learn overall about this restaurant? Well, we manage to learn all about the layout through some very intriguing scenes. I won’t give it away, but I did enjoy that scene, probably more than anything else in the movie.
Although this film is a drama at heart, it of course does have some rather comedic moments. The revelation of the “Golden Arches” is a touching scene, which is followed up by the words “Dick Magic”. Does it break the flow of the scene? Sure, a little bit is broken. But do I care? No, of course I don’t. It was a funny part of the film, and humour is rather scarce in this film. To be fair that’s like asking for a family friendly horror movie. The Founder is at its heart a dramatic retelling of the foundation of McDonald’s, but it does sprinkle some funnier moments in there. Not too many though, it’s just right.
But there were of course a few things wrong with the film. It’s not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, but of course there were some definite problems. For me the biggest problem was actually Ray Kroc himself. Because of the presentation Keaton and the direction of this movie, he does seem like a bit of a dick. McDonald’s is built on the basis that he stole two brothers restaurant in the aims of making a hell of a lot of money. Still, it doesn’t take away from the simply charming performance of Michael Keaton, why would it?
There were a few plot issues too. How does Ray Kroc convince the two conservative brothers to begin a franchise? He utters the words “Do it for America.” and these proud patriots get to work. Oh come on. That cannot be the real reason they opened a franchise, or even considered it in the first place. Please, if anybody knows the real reason then let me know, but I refuse to believe they did it for America.
For me, there does seem to be a bit of arrogance surrounding the film as a whole. Not that it’s a praise of McDonald’s though. It’s because it expects me to know a hell of a lot about the brand already. I didn’t know who Fred Turner was until I looked him up on Google after the film had ended. Hell, I didn’t even know the actor that played him, I still don’t actually.
As a whole, The Founder is a very satisfying two hour biopic that has some great performances from its leads. They do try and ram a romantic subplot into the mix (twice). However they do manage to cull those off rather quickly and efficiently. I cannot thank the movie enough for doing that for me. Still, there’s a lot to be desired after watching this film, and I’m honestly not sure where from. It’s just a little lacking, there’s a hole in this film where there should be, I don’t know, something.
Still, a charming performance from Keaton and a strong one from Offerman is enough for me. The Founder is at its heart a faithful biopic that can involve both fans of McDonald’s and people like myself. I must admit, if you’re going into this film solely to learn some more about McDonald’s you may be better off just checking the Wikipedia page. If you’re after some strong performances from Keaton and Offerman, then give this a watch.