Robert Siegel
Written by

The Founder

Movie Review
The Founder:Watch it for Michael Keaton!

If you could ask Ray Kroc the secret of his success, he will have one word: Persistence. But if you asked him whether the means mattered to achieve an end, you will get two words: You’re nuts. And thus, when you see him embodying those contrasting philosophies to build up one of the largest fast food chains in the world, you cannot help but mutter a few words of astonishment.

A biopic of Ray Kroc, the supposed founder of McDonalds, The Founder is yet another tale of the Great American Dream. It has the gumption of a go-getter and the poison of a self-absorbed opportunist but the punches it delivers fails to quiver your nerves.

Ray Kroc is a struggling milkshake machine salesman. He has a long, admirable sales pitch ready for his potential clients, but they are not interested in a purchase. Dejected, he listens to motivational records where persistence is valued as the sole attribute of a successful person. Amidst his regular travels from one part of the city to another to make sales, he stops by drive-ins to have burgers which take eternity to be made and served.

Come one lucky day and he has an order for 6 milkshake machines for a drive-in named McDonalds. Fascinated by their speedy delivery service where burgers are made in 30 seconds, Ray senses a massive economic opportunity in franchising it.

Reluctant at first, the founders, Dick McDonald and Mac McDonald, however give in to his persistent persuasion and once in his covetous hands, Ray makes it an obsession to make McDonalds the largest fast food chain, even if that means transferring the ownership to his name.

With such an explosive content, you would expect screenwriter Robert Siegel(of The Wrestler fame) to put the screen on fire with electrifying scenes but the absence of strong antagonists diffuses any conceivable tension between Ray and them.

Ray is greedy, slimy and shrewd. But his counterparts, the McDonald brothers are ignorant of the technical know-how of business outside their restaurant. Ray uses their ignorance to his benefit and usurps their rightful property without any major interference. Simple, isn’t it?

Again, Ray’s affair with the wife of one of his franchisee’s meets no resistance from their respective spouses despite their knowledge. Why?

There are scenes that depict the descent of Ray into unbridled greed and covetousness with the promise of a shock value but they fail to give you hardly any goose bumps because they are not smoothly transitioning into one another. As a result, the dialogues, though pretty solid, fail to leave an impact.

Yet, The Founder is a decent watch for the stand out performance of Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc. Featuring in almost every scene, he conveys his brilliance in his mannerisms and quirks with aplomb. He brings to the screen myriad emotions and despite being the guy with no ethics, he entices the viewers to empathise with him.

The McDonald Brothers, played by Nick Offerman and John Carrol Lynch, as the simple folks give a reserved performance. They are people with heart of gold and hold no lofty ambitions of becoming insanely rich or overtake any competitor. They are men of ethics. That is why it is really shattering to see them go out of business because someone else stole their idea and made it his own.

There’s not so much screen time given to other characters. Ray’s first wife, Ethel Kroc, played by Laura Dern is just there while her second wife, Joan Kroc, played by Linda Cardellini manages to leave an impact on Ray for admiring his competitive attitude. Patrick Wilson, as the husband of Joan, also adds little to the story.

The Founder had a content that promised to put it in the league of its counterparts such as The Wolf of Wall Street or The Social Network or even the recent The Big Short. But the idea to keep the script as faithful as possible to the real events in history, without any major alterations to its important characters, downplayed its potential entertainment quotient. But it is still a decent watch for the significant question it asks everyone who has a dream – How far will you go for it?

   Chiranjib Sahoo

Chiranjib is a trained screenwriter from Whistling Woods International, Mumbai. He can be contacted at csahoo449@gmail.com.

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