Hey, a movie about the founding of McDonalds. Because… why the hell not?
Ehh, based on the trailer, it’s not exactly based on McDonalds being created. It looks like it’s more or less based on how it became a world-wide sensation, if I had to hazard a guess, and Michael Keaton’s character is the man that made it like that. I’m not sure, but anything with Keaton’s name is probably worth seeing.
Let’s look at this cast, huh? Keaton is a living legend isn’t he? Considered to be one of the greatest actors today, and I don’t think you’ll hear many arguments. From his early comedy days, to his iconic turn in Tim Burton’s BATMAN (1989), all the way up to his ironic (but brilliant) turn in BIRDMAN (2014). He’s a man who’s talent continues to inspire and entertain for generations. Still kickin’, he’s a class act no matter what he’s in. Speaking of class acts, Laura Dern is in this too! Yup, famed veteran of JURASSIC PARK (1993) is still kicking ass and taking names like she’s always done. WILD (2014), CERTAIN WOMEN (2016), and OCTOBER SKY (1999), she’s not just an impossibly beautiful face, but a hurricane of emotional talent that glues your eyes to the screen. Other talents include Nick Offerman (SING , HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 , and TV show PARKS AND REC), Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring films, YOUNG ADULT , and WATCHMEN ), and Linda Cardellini (AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON , the live action Scooby Doo movies, and TV show MAD MEN).
Now for behind the scenes. John Lee Hancock, known for SAVING MR. BANKS (2013), THE BLIND SIDE (2009), and THE ROOKIE (2002). Writing the script is Robert D. Siegel, known for TURBO (2013) and THE WRESTLER (2008). Composing the music is Carter Burwell, known for HAIL, CAESAR! (2016), SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (2012), and IN BRUGES (2008). Finally, the cinematographer is John Schwartzman, known for JURASSIC WORLD (2015), THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012), and THE ROCK (1996), and will be working on the next two Fifty Shades movies.
This could be an interesting movie. Even if it isn’t, I’m sure we’ll get some solid performances out of the insane cast. So I’m looking forward to it.
This is my honest opinion of: THE FOUNDER
Set in 1954. Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) is a traveling salesman, trying to sell a new kind of milkshake maker. Problem is, he can’t sell one. That changes when he gets a call that a burger stand wants to buy eight of his product. Unable to believe his luck, Ray travels to the burger stand, called McDonalds, ran by brothers Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch). Immediately taken with the fast service, he learns their story and eventually decides that he wants in on the venture. Although not completely trusting of Ray, they accept his notion that if they attempt to franchise a second time, McDonalds could be the new American symbol. Ray is accepted into the business, so long as any changes within the restaurants are approved of by the brothers. But what begins as a passionate expansion of a brilliant idea soon inflates Ray’s ego as he begins to make ideas without the brothers’ consent, becomes detached from his loving and supportive wife, and starts to slowly turn McDonalds into his vision.
Oh crap, this was a haunting. Er, in a good way. This movie’s great! … Yeah, this might take some explanation.
But, movie first. So Keaton is the center of the damn universe in this flick. He is beyond amazing, but that shouldn’t be any surprise. Keaton’s always that way. The way he portrays Ray is so unbelievably layered and complex, you’re never quite sure what to make of him. One minute, he’s a normal guy, fast-talking, just trying to make a living like everyone else. There’s a connection the audience can make there, a guy starting at the bottom. He gets frustrated when things go south, trying to keep a positive attitude. He’ll even snap at his supportive wife, but not without apologizing immediately after. You see a man in love with this new concept of fast-food and only wants to see it go national. You see his passion get the better of him sometimes, so it’s hard to hate the guy. But then when he starts ignoring his wife, despite her active support, even getting the hots for another man’s wife, so it’s impossible to say that he’s a good man. See how this guy is written? First you get him, then he’s an asshole, then he’s charmingly passionate, then he’s a jerk-off supreme leech who couldn’t find success on his own and stole the success of other men. It’s the ultimate story of a hero’s downfall.
I should also be clear that I haven’t done much research into this matter, so I can’t attest to how despicable the real Ray Kroc was, but if half of this story is true, then I’d say the movie isn’t that far off. I’ll probably look into it at some point in the future to see what was fabricated and what was true. I imagine, because this is a two hour product placement of McDonalds, the company of said restaurant probably requested that certain details not be shared or only to be hold in half truths. I’m not sure how much I believe that the brothers’ first restaurant was that passionate about the service that even they would be out in the parking lot sweeping up garbage. I might believe the tennis court make-believe training segment. I don’t know if I believe that the brothers didn’t want to franchise more after their first foray into it. Something’s telling me they wanted to, but lacked the persistent know-how that Ray would eventually provide. Most everything else seems pretty legit and well-backed by the movie itself.
But it doesn’t end with Keaton. Both Lynch and Offerman are spectacular and have incredible chemistry. Their relationship is explored just the right amount. You love Mac for his ferocious loyalty to Dick (insert immature joke here), for giving up his dreams of working in the film industry to work with Dick. He is so cheerful and endearing in how much he loves his brother and is part of his accomplishments, even sacrificing his health once to make that dream larger. And Dick is lovably confrontational toward Ray when their ideas start to clash, putting the spotlight on his wonderfully “serious business” voice with his “my eyes will eat your face off” angry stare. But he’s a kind and practical man when not pushed and thoroughly unapologetic. I love how these two have a tried and true passion for what they created. Having a set of morals that shouldn’t be broken, even in the face of adversity or the promise of greater wealth. They aren’t greedy men and are happy with and proud of what they have now. Which makes it such a particularly painful moment when Ray snatches everything from under them, not just “taking” their idea, but… have you ever heard of the phrase “highway robbery?” Even that doesn’t seem to quite cover it! It’s heart-breaking and makes you wonder what the differences are between McDonalds today versus back in the last 50’s when there was a different attitude and care for what they were doing. Sure must have been something.
Oh and who else was wonderful? Dern, oh my god. Why, God? Why do you tease us with these blessings you send us? She is amazing, despite how limited her screen-time is. Ethel is Ray’s wife who shows nothing but support for her husbands ventures, but her support is either not appreciated enough, or completely overlooked. She’s grown tired of him not being home to enjoy their lives together, but sees the lovable passion in his eyes when he comes across McDonalds. Even when their friends are laughing at him, and she herself doesn’t have the highest regards for this latest scheme, she still shuts up those nay-sayers and still shows him support. But all that success goes to his head and even when she’s taking active responsibilities in the company, she’s totally shafted when he not only eyes the wife of another man that would ultimately be under his employ and offer up some innovations to the company that he would utilize, but divorces Ethel one random night during dinner and tells her it in the most nonchalant way. God damn, Dern’s face speaks volumes. Shock, heart-ache, bewilderment, that feeling of “it all amounted to nothing,” by heavenly Jesus, that’s the very moment that Ray became a monster to me. Dear God, I hope Ethel is a fictional character because if she isn’t, I hope Ray is burning in a special place in hell for what he did to her.
And I love seeing Wilson on screen, no matter how brief. It always tickles me when I see Linda Cardellini, gah, I love the talent that drives this movie.
Now on a personal note, I currently work in the restaurant industry. I won’t lie, I think I would have loved to work for McDonalds when it started off. If the story presented to us here is true, then there was a genuine passion to make their restaurant the best of the best. There was real training, a hands-on approach to show how the process of whatever needs to be done. I’ve worked in a few food-service places and with the exception of this burger joint I used to work at, no place cares enough to do real training. It’s “throw your new employees to the wolves and see who comes out dead, or limping. Also, I feel like the story here feels hauntingly similar to restaurants I work in now. “Franchise, franchise, franchise!” “Franchise the darn thing!” These words ring horrifyingly and hilariously loudly in my head. The same mistakes were being made in real life as they were in the movie. Like, quality isn’t consistent, nor are menu items. Proper training is shrugged away, and essential items are often overlooked for restocking or replacement for what seems like to be an invasion of the brand to make more money as opposed to making each individual restaurant an equally great, or be it’s own uniquely amazing place. The original owners of McDonalds seemed to be content with less, so long as their stores were great, but as soon as greed sets in, it takes away from what’s already established.
So as you can see, I’m absolutely head-over-heels for this. Maybe it’s just about time we got a legitimately good film in January that I will take anything that’s half decent, but I do think it’s a great movie and I recommend it to anyone. It’s funny, it’s bad-ass, it’s compelling, it’s interesting, it’s everything a good biopic needs to be.
My honest rating for THE FOUNDER: 5/5