Movie: The Founder
Director: John Lee Hancock
Cast: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Caroll Lynch
The Founder could be the most honest biopic ever made. It's easily up there as one of the most brutal retellings of a corporate kingpin's life, to say the least. And that couldn't have been easy, considering McDonald's feeds 1% of the world's population everyday (a fact you'll be made aware of in the end credits), and makes several billions off it.
By the time you're done watching Michael Keaton walk in the well-worn shoes of the late Ray Kroc - the man who strong armed the original McDonald's founders into letting him build it into the conglomerate it is - chances are you're not going to like him too much. But it's a movie that you can't help but enjoy. If not for anything else, just because it's not cut from the same fluffy cloth as the approved-by-subject MS Dhoni biopic.
The movie starts off slowly. Kroc (Keaton) is a tired salesman. A man with a catchy pitch but a penchant for picking quirky products, that don't always set the retail market on fire. While peddling milkshake churners to drive-in diners across the Midwest (with little success at that), he's intrigued when a customer from a small town in California orders 8 churners. And that's when Harry met Sally, or in this case, when Kroc met (the) McDonalds.
He convinces the two Conservative brothers who've masterminded the fast food concept (like a 50's version of the average McD outlet today, except with actual beef burgers) to let him expand their restaurant with franchises, and bing bada boom, before you know it Kroc's on top. Normally, when you're watching a story about a man who built an empire, he's got to grow and grow and grow hit a few snags, rise like a phoenix and grow and grow and so on and so forth. He beats the odds. He saves the day.
He loves his family. Victory bugles sound in the foreground. Not quite the same here. The most striking part of The Founder is that Kroc's evolution curve goes the other way. He grows vain, he takes undue credit, he cheats, he schmoozes, he hits on a franchise owner's wife, ignores his own, he uses shortcuts and lawyers to make money fast. The coup de grace is that he finally cons the original founders into parting with their creation and drives them into the ground. You'd actually hate his guts, if it wasn't Michael Keaton in the driver's seat.
With a performance that takes nothing away from his batting average after Birdman and Spotlight, Keaton powers through the film drawing on a string of versatile sales pitches and semi-puerile sermons about the American Dream, delivered with impeccable timing.
The supporting cast are able and really keep the movie ticking along, despite the lack of a script that's laden with action. The laughs that have been built in more than make up for it though. Afterthought: He also chomps on burgers every now and again and genuinely looks like he genuinely enjoys eating at McDonald's. Now that's an achievement to applaud him for. Slow clap.
Verdict: One of those rare biopics where the family of the protagonist may not be organising free previews - so it's worth watching, especially if you like eating at McDonald's and aren't creeped out by Ronald Mcdonald