One way or another McDonalds has been a part of your life whether or not you’ve even eaten at one. I’m not particularly fond of it myself but I was intrigued by how it got started to become the phenomenon it is today.
Keaton has been on a roll as of late, from being in 2 back to back Best Picture winners (Birdman and Spotlight) to becoming a villain within the Marvel cinematic universe, he’s quite sought after now and I’m now intrigued by what project he’s involved with next. His role as business tycoon Ray Croc is quite complex; he’s brash, inspired, crooked, opportunistic and somewhat greedy. But as Michael Douglas said in 1987’s ‘Wall Street’, ‘Greed is good’. He’s driven; half of it for selfish reasons mind as prior to building this dynasty for himself, he was down on his luck selling milkshake machines to clients who weren’t really that interested.
That is until Nick Offerman’s Dick Mcdonald is on the phone with him as Dick and his brother Mac (John Carroll Lynch) ordered a rather large number of milkshake makers. Before Ray even makes his way over to their establishment you can hear through the phone just how hectic it is there. When Ray gets there he is in awe of the satisfaction on the customers’ faces. The people back in 1954 were awful friendly, when Ray is enjoying his McDonald’s meal a woman with her children asks in the most pleasant fashion she can sit next to him on a bench he’s sat on. For a burger, fries and a shake by the way was only 35 cense back then, pretty dirt cheap. I was as amazed as what Ray was.
People back then said ‘What the heck’ or ‘beeswax’, you believe these are things the people of that time would actually say and that’s down to how the cast fits into the era that’s being depicted very suitably. The mannerisms of American society back then mirrors to an extent the overall tone of the movie, its delightful and warm. The music is the biggest giveaway where that’s concerned and the colour scheme is of a variety of soft colours like brown, bright yellow, beige and soft orange. It’s almost always sunny in the movie too, being in an environment like that ought to make anyone want to strive for greatness.
The brothers are proud enough to showcase the system they’ve implemented in the kitchen which is described by Dick as “a symphony of efficiency”, it’s really quite amazing. The story of how the brothers themselves started this establishment is a fascinating one in and of itself. They’re both played wonderfully by Lynch and Offerman, who by the way is near unrecognisable without his moustache. I really bought them as brothers. You get the sense that they’re very supportive of one another, and it shows in their values for what they want their restaurant to represent, Family. They’re somewhat inseparable too, every time a phone call takes place between Croc and Dick, Mac is right there. They’re neighbourly, humble but also traditionalists, they prefer to play things safe. Ray raises the prospect of taking their establishment even further by franchising it but the brothers are concerned about the integrity of their restaurant as they’re made a previous attempt and it didn’t go down so well. Dick figures they’d much better control if they just have the one stand but Ray argues that he’ll do the leg work and expand their brand on the condition that any and all changes goes through the brothers’ seal of approval. From then on in, Ray searches far and wide for investors to see the potential of this future, game-changing enterprise.
Laura Dern’s Ethel Croc (Ray’s wife) is rendered housebound and for a veteran such as Dern, that could be considered unfair in terms of what she has to work with for her character. Actually that brings to mind the idea that her character is treated somewhat insignificant. She’s trapped; useless to Ray and slowly but surely their marriage is anything but fruitful. Ray isn’t the waiting kind, his persistence is exemplified by the excitement he channels to the two brothers as he describes McDonalds as the ‘new American church’. He says to a customer while enticing him with a milkshake maker “Are you familiar with the story of the chicken and the egg?”, he’s the kind to put all his eggs in one basket and just run with it. He’s outward, doesn’t keep things to himself. He looks forward, never backwards which it isn’t that surprising to learn that he comes off as somewhat cold in the end to his partners.
Robert Siegels script is quite snappy which goes hand in hand with Robert Frazen’s sharp editing. You never feel the weight of the film’s running time. It also mirrors the energy of Ray, he wants to be ahead of everyone else. His Ethel says to him “When’s enough gonna be enough for you?” to which he replies “Why should I settle when other men won’t?”. Keaton says in an interview that we’re a fast moving society, Ray’s ‘professional leech’ of a prospector is somewhat lost on director John Lee Hancock who helmed The Blindside and Saving Mr Banks. He approached this project ambivalently on the depiction of Ray Croc, He was fond of using Keaton’s magnetism to explore the quiet and dark corners of Ray’s mind. There’s a scene towards the end that is illusioned to look like Ray’s breaking the 4th wall when he’s in fact talking to himself. It’s that self gratification that Ray embodies someone who shifty as he maybe, he’s always inspired.
The movie also touches on McDonald’s legacy by just simply looking at the name, it’s inviting and genuine. Ray understood the appeal of the name better than the brother’s did, now I admire it all the better. The Founder is a fascinating tale held together by a wickedly entertaining turn by Michael Keaton that highlights the rise of one of America’s most successful industries that’s affected our lives one way or another.