McDonalds might be a household name today but it wasn’t always like that, and it took the vision, tenacity and sheer will of one man to build it into the brand that we all know. His name was Ray Kroc and The Founder is the story of his extraordinary business life.
Academy Award nominee Michael Keaton jumps head first into the larger than life story of Kroc, and does a tremendous job of bringing this indomitable businessman to life. If there is one idea that symbolises Keaton’s performance, then it has to be his tireless persistence to win. Nothing gets in Kroc’s way as he makes his climb for the top. Often ridiculed for being a dreamer, he never gives up on himself and backs up his grand scheming with backbreaking effort and a killer instinct to dominate the business world. Keaton is effortlessly snarky as Kroc, and even though he starts out at the bottom, he certainly won’t let anyone push him around. But while Keaton’s portrayal of Kroc is indeed inspiring, his performance also carries a certain cautionary tale that comes with a mantra of success at any cost.
Actors Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch provide scene-stealing support as brothers Richard ‘Dick’ McDonald and Maurice ‘Mac’ McDonald respectively, the men who started it all. While Lynch creates plenty of whimsy as Mac, Offerman is a revelation as the relatively straight Dick, and runs into serious dramatic territory here. The war of wills that plays out between Keaton and Offerman leads to plenty of friction on screen, and it is a bitter battle up until the final credits. B.J. Novak also supplies some top thinking as business strategist Harry J. Sonneborn ,who gifts Kroc with a revolutionary idea that ultimately robs the McDonald brothers of their creation.
Director John Lee Hancock is the go-to guy in Hollywood for engaging and thought-provoking biopics (The Rookie and The Blind Side), but he’s never taken on a figure quite as intense or charismatic as Kroc. Miller balances the biographical aspects of the film with a gripping narrative, and injects a thematic journey from a classic road movie as Kroc travels vast distances in an effort to build his empire.
While underdog stories are old hat in cinema, what makes The Founder unique is the spin it puts on this classic idea. The phrase ‘go west young man’ is bandied around a lot for young people who venture out into the unknown to find their fortune. Kroc himself took this same journey, although he was 52 at the time and definitely not a young man. But that is part of the magic that is found here in The Founder, that no matter how old you are you can still chase your dreams, and inevitably find the success you always desired.
Image source: Roadshow Films