Ever since Michael Keaton won his way back into the hearts of movie-goers with his performance in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), he has chosen a number of very interesting roles that have gone on to prove that the man is indeed a very fine actor and for shame on audiences everywhere for forgetting that over the last decade or more. In The Founder, Keaton has once again chosen a role that is intriguing to say the least, the true story of the man who created the world’s biggest fast food chain – McDonald’s. For those who had to experience it first hand, this movie might be like opening an old wound because when it comes right down to it, this is not the nicest of stories and that is ultimately deceiving because when one starts to watch this film, it begins as one thing and ends up as something else.
Throwing a swerve into a film is not a new device or trick that came along with this picture, but it is unexpected in this one and it changes the opinion of the audience completely by the end of the movie. Keaton plays Ray Kroc, a salesman who cannot seem to catch a break no matter what it is he hocks. Success always eludes him and it is to say the least, quite defeating. The man listens to self-help records, trying to boost his morale and goes home to a wife who supports him, but who he himself is unable to do so financially or otherwise. Almost everyone can relate to the man and Keaton is at his very best, selling this story with subtlety and panache. Everything changes though once he meets the McDonald brothers and discovers their revolutionary way of serving food. From there, Kroc gets an idea and when all is said and done, he ends up standing upon and owning the world’s biggest franchise. The twist of it all is that Kroc is not only a man that everyone can identify with, but one that the audience feels sympathy for and grow to love, yet when the picture ends, he is a man that has earned the viewer’s dislike, if not disgust.
Keaton of course, transforms himself into the ultimate salesmen and eventual con-artist. He does what it takes to win and after so many losses and hardships, one cannot help but sort of admire what he ends up with, despite the underhanded tactics he used to get there. The man built an empire out of an idea, the problem was that it was somebody else’s idea and it goes to show that when it comes to money, there is no such thing as friendship, morals or fair play. Perhaps money does not buy happiness as they say, but in the case of Ray Kroc, it seems to have done exactly that, the only thing being the trail of bodies he left in his wake to get there.
While it is a true story, The Founder almost seems unbelievable in a way, but with a little drive and determination on Kroc’s part and the fantastic performance by Keaton on the big screen, the rise of McDonald’s turns out to be utterly captivating and shines a light on how it came to be.
4 out of 5