There Will be Blood, but with burgers (as apparently the marking team was trying to push it as). Or The Wolf of Wall Street with medium fries and drink. If you expect anything on these lines, you may find The Founder not organic enough. Directed by John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side), The Founder is a capitalist satire that insinuates more than it says, giving us a charismatic and heartless anti-hero that embodies everything the American Dream stands for… including squish everyone that stands on his way to Ambition City.
Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) is a door to door salesman, trying to convince drive-in owners to buy his 5-milkshake maker, with not much success. But when he gets to California, he finds a new kind of restaurant that scraps everything that doesn’t work with the drive-in concept in favour of absolute efficiency. And so, Ray falls in love and makes his life mission to convince the McDonald brothers to franchise said restaurant. As the locations start pilling up, philosophy differences between the brothers and Ray give him the perfect excuse to go rogue and invest fully on his own vision for the McDonald’s emporium.
Based on a real story, the genius of The Founder is to keep itself in troubled moral waters, never defining its protagonist as a villain, but not shying away from showing the results of his ruthlessness. If the McDonald brothers (played by Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch) are the hardworking Americans that created a successful local business through trial and error, Ray Kroc is the mind that recognises innovation and runs with the idea to the hills. Simply put, it’s Wozniak vs Jobs all over again. Keaton – the soul of the film – shines through by presenting Ray as a chirpy capitalist whose grandiose plans are bigger than himself, making the audience sympathise with a character that says Contracts are like hearts. They’re made to be broken.
Though some parts of the story are left to the imagination and knowledge of how those Golden Arches turned out, the film delivers a strong story narrative, peppered here and there with little sprinkles of humour – from frozen fries and instant milkshakes to the after credits text slides. As a biopic, it does more than lip service – it shows the post-war American Dream in all its nightmarish hues. With its ironic title and pastel cinematography (very 50s Americana), The Founder is not your usual fast food movie – and some sitting and savouring may be required to understand its more delicate flavours.
The Founder is on UK cinemas from 17th February 2017.