Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Founder: Movie Review


Traditional bio-pic removes the emotion to tell an interesting story.
Structurally, The Founder is a traditional bio-pic, and I’m sure the brand name McDonald’s turns off a lot of people; however, the story itself is interesting. Perhaps most interesting and polarizing is the subject of the bio-pic and how this person alone can veer this film very far from a traditional bio-pic. Most bio-pics have the audience caring about the subject by the end; they have overcome adversity, achieved success and have an inspiring and touching story to tell. 2016

Directed by: John Lee Hancock

Screenplay by: Robert Siegel

Starring: Michael Keaton, John Carroll Lynch, and Nick Offerman

Ray Kroc did overcome adversity, he did achieve success, but his is not a story that will inspire compassion in any way. For those that don’t know his story or the beginnings of McDonald’s, The Founder is an interesting watch. For those that know the basics of the story, The Founder still provides a lot of interesting context. For those that are familiar with the unscrupulous businessman, The Founder is still a worthwhile watch because the film never once paints this guy as some kind of hero, it does not put him in a pedestal. It very delicately balances telling an interesting story of a man who struggled to build a career for himself and then became the head of the most recognizable business around the world while not even displaying a hint of admiration. Some will admire him because his success is almost unparalleled, and to that end the film makes a few subtle points about the psychology of the human race.

Michael Keaton stars in The Founder - courtesy of Elevation Pictures
The film begins with Ray (Michael Keaton) in middle America, working as a travelling salesman for food industry products. It’s clear that he’s one of those entrepreneurs who is on the cusp of a great idea and with just enough time and money, he can get there. But when you don’t have that good idea, you’re just an empty salesman. This is a very traditional beginning, but fits the traditional roots of the men at the center.

The film gets quite interesting, despite the staid approach in how its told, when Ray receives a call from the McDonald brothers. They have a successful hamburger stand out in California and they need large milkshake producing equipment. Ray travels out there and marvels at how unique and successful their stand is. And it really is something to marvel at. The film gives us the whole history of Dick and Mac McDonald (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch) and how they run their McDonald’s hamburger stand. The history is accurate, interesting and really very enjoyable to watch how it all unfolded.

The meat of the story is Ray Kroc getting into business with the McDonald brothers to franchise their hamburger stand. Simultaneously, it is a story of how McDonald’s became the fast food giant it currently is, and how Ray Kroc turned himself from a struggling salesman into a ruthless, power-hungry businessman. And that’s why The Founder is a good movie. It’s a traditional bio-pic of an interesting story that relies on history and sociology as opposed to compassion – you won’t find any of that in Ray Kroc.