Susan Granger’s review of “The Founder” (The Weinstein Company)
Michael Keaton (“Spotlight,” “Birdman”) plays ruthless Ray Kroc in this backstory of the ubiquitous McDonald’s franchise, an innovative, assembly-line idea that revolutionized the fast food industry.
In 1952, traveling salesman Kroc was working hard, peddling milkshake machines to drive-ins in the Midwest, while avidly absorbing “The Power of Positive Thinking.”
“Nothing in the world is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.”
Then he gets a huge order from a roadside restaurant in San Bernardino, California, run by brothers Maurice “Mack” (John Carroll Lynch) and Richard “Dick” (Nick Offerman) McDonald.
Intrigued, Kroc marvels at their mechanized fast-food operation, learning how they transformed their kitchen into a speedy “symphony of efficiency” and persuading them to allow him to franchise their carefully managed concept.
As Kroc’s ambitious enterprise grows, he not only becomes increasingly alienated from his long-suffering wife (Laura Dern) but also develops a relationship with the wife (Linda Cardellini) of one of his business associates (Patrick Wilson).
But Kroc soon realizes that, because of his restrictive contract with the McDonald brothers, he’s losing money. Enter Harry J. Sonneborn (BJ Novak), a financial advisor who convinces him that he needs to own the land on which he builds.
Cold-hearted Kroc maintains “Business is war,” adapting the iconic Golden Arches into a global brand.
Scripted by Robert Siegel (“The Wrestler”) and directed by John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side,” “Saving Mr. Banks”), it captures Kroc’s ambiguity, as Michael Keaton’s warm smile and folksy friendliness takes the edge off Kroc’s cutthroat business strategy.
TWC co-chairman Harvey Weinstein summed up the timely relevance of Kroc’s story, noting: “You have a persistent and, at times, calculating entrepreneur representing both the best and worst of American businessmen…It’s up to audiences to determine whether he’s a visionary, an opportunist or a crook – and how that fits in our society.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Founder” is a slick, slyly sleazy 7 – revealing the Faustian bargain that created one of the world’s largest food corporations.