Review: “The Founder” Does Not Shine A Good Light On Ray Kroc
There are two kinds of people in this world: Those that will hate Ray Kroc after watching this movie, and those that will respect him. “The Founder” makes sure to not blur the lines of whether or not he was a good guy ; they lay down their facts and let you fall on one side or the other. Getting Michael Keaton to play him was a great choice because as much as I found myself hating the person he was playing, I couldn’t let myself hate Michael Keaton. He was Batman for crying out loud. He does a great job in this film as well knowing he’s playing a despicable character but bringing that small tinge of human quality that keeps him from being a cliche movie villain. No matter how you feel about Ray Kroc, “The Founder” will make you feel something.
What is a story about how Ray Kroc took McDonalds from a small family business and turned it into the hamburger empire it has become, “The Founder” packs in a lot of emotion that is supported by great acting all around. When you have Patrick Wilson playing a small part in the movie you know you’ve cast the film well. We also see Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch turn in humbled performances as Dick and Mac McDonald that play perfect opposites to Keaton’s Kroc. The way they portray their characters is actually what makes Kroc look like Jaws, circling their family business after smelling blood and taking everything he wants that they hold dear. There’s also Linda Cardellini (Freaks and Geeks) as Joan Smith, B.J. Novak as Harry Sonneborn, and Laura Dern as Ray Kroc’s wife, Ethel. So, yeah, acting in this movie is not an issue.
We all know how this film turns out because we live in the future. It makes it especially hard to watch the McDonald brothers pour their blood, sweat, and tears into making it a family restaurant that prides themselves on fresh product and quick output and watch it get turned into this corporate machine that pumps out less than desired food all for that almighty dollar. I think the hardest part about watching the movie though is you can’t really blame Ray Kroc. He didn’t make the American people turn McDonalds into a billion dollar business: he simply gave the public what they wanted and McDonalds continues to do so even today. Hollywood has thrown multiple documentaries and fictional films at us telling us why we shouldn’t find ourselves in that drive-thru. They’ve done everything they possibly can to keep us away and none of it has worked. Maybe if they show us the history of McDonalds it will be enough to make us feel bad and spend our dollar elsewhere…but probably not. If nothing else though, “The Founder” will make you feel bad, even if it is just for a small moment, about sinking your teeth into a cheeseburger, but I’m assuming the pickels, onions, and ketchup will make you forget about your guilt quicker than it surfaced.
While “The Founder” is a slow dramatic piece that tends to slide into the “preachy” category more than I wanted it to, Director John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side) and screenwriter Robert D. Siegel (The Wrestler, Big Fan) do a great job at keeping it focused on its mission from the very beginning. What could have been a convoluted story that tried to pack in too much information stayed a film that wanted to tell a specific story about the key players involved and did so effectively.
If you’re in the group that hates Ray Kroc after watching this movie, you only have yourself to blame. And that’s the hardest pill to swallow. Perhaps getting a burger and shake to wash it all down will make it at least tolerable.