Beetlejuice, Batman, Birdman, Jack Frost and Johnny Dangerously. Michael Keaton only does a few movies every so often but the acting treasure has taken up the mantle of McDonald’s pioneer Ray Kroc, the man responsible for aiding and eventually spearheading the fast-food industry into the now multi-conglomerate it is today. Based on a true story, this Oscar-worthy movie is an enjoyable tour de force where the 65-year-old truly shines in a morally questionably role that just really makes you want a McDonalds.
Michael Keaton shines in his role as the protagonist of this film. He starts out as a nobody and turns into a somebody. The arc to his character is a somewhat minefield o understanding due to his drastic character change. He goes from being the humble wheeler-dealer with big ambitions to being a corporation asshole who controls the modern world. Keaton plays along with the wonderful script and fully integrates his performance to accompany a performance that really makes you believe he is Ray Kroc. By the end of the film, you really question whether you hate this character. He breaks up a marriage (even though this isn’t fully shown on-screen but by golly gosh it is heavily implied), he breaks legally binding contracts, lies and cheats his way to cut out the inventors of McDonald’s to sell him the business. The cad even mortgages his home with his first wife in order to try to get the McDonalds brand coast to coast. You question whether the man who brought you the fast food chain we all know and love is actually a man to love. This sort of conflicts the idea that McDonalds is a “family” brand it so claims to be, due to its harmfulness in terms of producing unhealthy products.
The film’s period setting is fantastic. The props and sets are visually stunning and seriously set the scene well. When we the see the early drive-in scene, the way the food is distrusted is almost alien to us as it comes out on a plate and all the novelty fast food package we take for granted today seems like a novelty when we first see it in the movie. The movie felates the golden arched company so much that it is almost difficult to take when the film takes a turn towards the end.
McDonald’s is a company that we all hold dear to our hearts. A fast-food franchise that we’ve all heard of and nearly all been to. I myself have fond memories of late night burgers after work with my colleagues, post-football chicken selects with a smokey BBQ dip after losing every game of knock out or sneaking off during lunch times to the local drive thru for nuggets. This movie allows us to see how our beloved franchise came about. We may love the food but the men behind the food and the story of how it came to our streets is both enlightening and slightly off-putting, knowing that your burger has the blood from someones back stabbing all over it.
Being called “The Founder,” one already gets a sense that this film is an anti-hero attack on a small business story as it’s about Kroc, not the McDonald’s brothers. We empathize with them and really grow to dislike Ray due to his unlikable personality growth. He puts products in their company that really don’t belong, especially as the ‘Instamix’ that Kroc uses to add into his milkshakes plays on modern-day society’s paranoia on what goers into our fast food. With this being said, it would be interesting to see just how much input the McDonalds corporation had in this movie.
The ending was somewhat off. It just abruptly ended. Had it ended on the handshake between the brothers and Kroc, that would have been suffice. However, it continued to allow Keaton to monologue in order to comply with his attempts to finally win an academy award. This film could well be the one. His performance was exemplary. He was a breath of fresh air and made the movie what it is.
Despite a lackluster ending, a somewhat mixed message and a clear advertisement for a fast food chain, The Founder was a thoroughly enjoyable movie. It has Michael Keaton eating, drinking and being an unlikable human being from start to finish and it is quite enjoyable to watch. Keaton is the Golden Arches of this film and it really needs to be seen to be believed. I wouldn’t say it’s as strong a performance as Birdman, but it comes pretty damn close. Oner final thing I will say though: this movie really made me want a Big Mac