‘McDonald’s can be the new American church!’
A movie about the meteoritic rise of fast food behemoth McDonald’s may seem morally questionable to some but The Founder is, at its essence, a human story, not a corporate one. Michael Keaton’s Ray Kroc is a travelling salesman who is inspired by the fast food concept employed by a small burger joint. Kroc takes the business to the next level but not without bovine human cost.
Keaton continues his Indian summer with another assured and compelling performance. He makes Kroc both human and ruthless depending on what the scene calls for. The Founder’s ace in the hole however, is the stellar supporting cast. Nick Offerman gives perhaps his most complete performance yet as the proud McDonald’s co-founder Dick McDonald and John Carroll Lynch is heartbreakingly vulnerable as Dick’s brother Mac. The two share a realistic, brotherly chemistry that manages to make the origin story of a faceless, evil corporation much more wholesome. They are also responsible for the film’s most poignant and touching scenes.
Outside of the restaurant is a suitably downtrodden Laura Dern as Kroc’s wife, as well as BJ Novak as Kroc’s eventual business partner, Harry J. Sonneborn. The Founder is (thankfully) never a celebration of McDonald’s, indeed, the arc of Ray Kroc from hard working family man to selfish monster perhaps mirrors the story of McDonald’s itself. Wisely, director John Lee Hancock never really vilifies the fast food juggernaut either. Preaching is not a good look for enjoyable cinema. Instead, Hancock allows the fascinating story to be played out with a great ensemble cast and with Keaton leading the way.
I’m a sucker for a good biopic and The Founder is probably the best one I have seen since Steve Jobs. I was going to finish this review with the words ‘I’m loving it’ but I was nearly sick in my mouth upon writing that, so instead I’ll just say The Founder made me happy (meal). Jesus, that’s even worse…