Film review: The Founder – Michael Keaton as manipulative salesman who turned McDonald’s into a global brand
Keaton brings a malicious edge to his portrait of Ray Kroc, the man who made McDonald’s into a global behemoth, but the film suffers from muddled direction and too many shots of people urgently making burgers
Ever since 1988’s Beetlejuice, Michael Keaton has managed to bring a touch of malice to the most cheerful of characters. He’s given ample chance to do that in The Founder, the story of how electronic mixer salesman Ray Kroc took over the McDonald’s restaurant chain from its originators and turned it into a worldwide success.
McDonald’s was formed by brothers Richard (Nick Offerman) and Maurice McDonald (John Carroll Lynch), who adopted a Henry Ford-like production line to prepare their food. Kroc (Keaton) saw the potential of the new fast-food business, and talked his way into handling franchises for the company. Those turned out to be a great success, and Kroc managed to take the company from its founders.
Keaton’s nuanced efforts are hampered by the muddled direction of John Lee Hancock ( Saving Mr. Banks ), who can’t make up his mind about the story he’s telling. Kroc is a nasty piece of work, but the film’s squeaky clean approach often makes him seem like an all-American hero.
The ironic title is important, as it reflects the psychology of Kroc, who convinced himself that he was the founder of the company, even though it’s evident to all that he didn’t. The history of the chain proves to be a bore – there are way too many scenes of staff urgently cooking burgers – so it’s Kroc’s aberrant psychology that provides the interest.
The film also fails to mention that White Castle, a well-known burger chain in the US, developed the idea of fast food long before the McDonald brothers.
The Founder opens on March 9
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