#REVIEW: ” THE FOUNDER”
Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
Few things represent America as well as McDonald’s. Fast, disposable food for a society that reveres speed and impersonality for its day to day survival. With a Big Mac combo no more than a few blocks away at all times, most people are as familiar with the “golden arches” as they are with the American flag. In The Founder, Writer Robert D. Siegel paints a picture of the birth of this company that couldn’t be more American if it were written on a dollar bill; a tale of family, ingenuity, greed, theft, and power.
The McDonald’s story most people know begins with Ray Kroc in Des Plaines, Illinois but its true history begins in California with two brothers, Dick and Mac McDonald. Their dream of owning a restaurant together moved them beyond the popular drive-ins of the day to a walk-up window and service so efficient that every footstep and second of the day was accounted for. By the time Krok enters the picture, McDonald’s and their fifteen-cent burgers are already a local success. Local, however, isn’t enough for Krok who wants to franchise the restaurant despite the brothers’ strong misgivings.
In true 2016 style, Michael Keaton’s Kroc is the villain of the piece. With few likeable qualities of which to speak, Keaton plays the smooth-talking Kroc as someone who doesn’t require validation from anyone other than his own reflection in the mirror. Spouting lines like “Contracts are like hearts – they’re meant to be broken,” he commands the screen as ably in a cheap 1950s suit as he once did in a cape and cowl. Carter Burwell’s score is the perfect compliment to Keaton’s complicated dance as he manipulates everyone standing in his way.
If Keaton’s Kroc is deliberately grating then the McDonald brothers played by Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch (Dick and Mac, respectively) are the studied portrait of 1950s Americana. Their open natures and work-ethic make them ripe pickings for the less scrupulous Kroc. Despite the inevitable dénouement the pair never invite pity even when their naïve willingness to trust ends badly time after time.
Unfortunately, while the men have well-rounded characters the women in this Film aren’t quite as fortunate. Linda Cardellini (Joan Smith), Laura Dern (Ethel Kroc), and Kate Kneeland (June Martino) appear only as cookie cutter representations of women of the era: there to serve their men but rarely be given moments to shine outside of that function.
Despite having all these pieces perfectly in place, director John Lee Hancock somehow fails to quite shine. Toward the end of the Movie Kroc is asked why he named his restaurant McDonald’s and he replies that “it sounds like America.” That may well be the problem: America has already rallied behind one unscrupulous businessman this year and not even the Film’s Director seems quite prepared to reward another.
The Founder has been talked about in Oscar pools since last summer. With nominations only a few days away there is still be hope that this may finally be Keaton’s year. So, this weekend go see the story of the original Hamburglar.
Elevation Pictures release THE FOUNDER on Friday, January 20, 2017.