Director: John Lee Hancock
Cast: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini
Have I Seen it Before: Yes.
Did I Like It: McDonalds and Michael Keaton? Yes, please, on all fronts.
Michael Keaton not withstanding, the notion that The Social Network (2010) except about hamburgers and french fries instead of the burgeoning frontier of social media seems like it would be kind of a dud. Thankfully, this film benefits a mostly breakneck pacing that forbids the audience to realize they might otherwise be bored by an epic of food service and small-scale real estate deals. The film also has just enough of a wry sense of humor about whether or not the growing of McDonalds was a good development for human society, or an ongoing trash fire. I type that last sentence not so much out of a place of judgment, and more out of a place of self-deprecation, as I could really go for a bag of double cheeseburgers from any of the three McDonalds restaurants within two miles from my house.
Maybe the subject of the film is sexier than one might originally assume. That’s either a testament to the film, or to cheeseburgers, and I’m honestly not sure which one is the case.
But, as I mentioned above, it also has Michael Keaton in it. History—and frankly, this screenplay—would prefer to have Ray Kroc be a cad at best, and a monster capable of demolishing western civilization as we know it at worst. In the hands of the once and hopefully future Beetlejuice, the man is instead scrappy, and worthy of a heroic role in a movie. He’s a torrent of can-do post-war Americanism, finally realizing that the best kind of people to bring his burgeoning empire to the rest of the world are other scrappers like himself. This quality Keaton brings to the role doesn’t diminish from our sympathy for Richard and Maurice McDonald (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch, respectively) and the tragedy that unfolds as they lose the rights to their own name, or for Ethel Kroc (an unfortunately underused Laura Dern) as she comes to support her husband’s harebrained schemes, but turns out to not be enough for his ego. Naturally, the film streamlines another spouse between Ethel and Joan (Linda Cardellini), but thems the breaks in the biopic game.
It’s going to be a cold day in hell before I don’t recommend a film starring Keaton*, but beyond the casting, The Founder still delivers on everything its promised and is in that pantheon of truly great biopics.
* I’ll admit right now, I still have not seen Clean and Sober (1988), because I’m not terribly in the business of being depressed in a Keaton movie or Jack Frost (1998), probably for the same reason. But so far, the record remains unbroken.