Tuesday, February 7, 2017

[Review] The Founder

Ah, those iconic golden arches. The cheeseburgers. The milkshakes. The fries... The incorrect orders. The cheap and fattening food. The questionable sourcing methods... Whether you have a love or hate relationship with McDonald's (or both at the same time, like me), the place has become a staple of American culture. The Founder tells the story of the fast food empire's monumental origins.

Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) is a businessman and shameless hawker with a 'more more more' and 'faster faster faster' attitude. One day he stumbles upon his first McDonald's restaurant. After ordering a hamburger, french fries, and a Coca Cola, (there's quite a generational shock for us when his order total comes to 35 cents), he's given a tour by the actual McDonald bros (played by John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman), and let's just say Kroc is in his greasy glory.

One of the most fascinating things about The Founder is watching the people in the film react in awe to the quick-dining customs that we completely take for granted nowadays: You're telling me my order will be ready in a few minutes (most of the time, anyway)? And I can eat it on the go?? And from a bag?! Yes, the things that have become so normalized for us were once *brand new* concepts, so it's amusing to ponder the initial enthusiasm and confusion, hiccups and all.

The actual drama warms up when Ray Kroc makes it clear that he wants a piece of the pie (or should I say burger?), flaunting ambitious goals of transforming the establishment into a franchise (he repeats "franchise" about 20 times in case you don't get the point). He moves forward with his vision, but not without some shady deals, taking a little more credit than he deserves, and being frankly just kind of a big ol' jerk. The film definitely doesn't shy away from portraying him in a negative light. I mean, the guy is a swindler ("Ray Kroc" almost seems too rich to be his real name).

Michael Keaton gives a solid performance, slipping into a higher-pitched, talk-through-teeth delivery without being too gimmicky or distracting. This is a keen, driven, hot-headed, conniving character who's willing to throw anyone in his path under the bus, and Keaton nails it. The script is full of juicy lines of dialogue, you know--in that clever and catchy, winking Americana sort of way. Unfortunately there are some stretches toward the end where the film loses steam, as if director John Lee Hancock slacked in keeping up any major tension and opted against embracing the first act's feisty tone.

So, sometimes you wish The Founder had a bit more spunk, but overall, the final product is mostly satisfactory.

( 7.5/10 )

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