Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Founder

Michael Keaton has used his jittery intensity to play sympathetic villains in the past, in films such as Beetlejuice and Desperate Measures, but he's never been as odious as he is in director John Lee Hancock's The Founder. Keaton's Ray Kroc is an aw-shucks avatar of American capitalism, the kind of guy who will reach out to shake your hand and then rip your arm right out of its socket.

As the film opens in 1954, Kroc is a balding, Dale Carnegie-worshipping small-time operator still searching for the magic gizmo or idea that will make him rich. He finds it in a family-owned hamburger stand in San Bernadino, California, where brothers Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick McDonald (Nick Offerman) have essentially invented the fast-food industry. Kroc convinces the reluctant brothers to let him franchise their business, though the differences in their values signals trouble from the start: Kroc is enamored of the brothers' wholesome-sounding name, streamlined menu, and “Spee-dee” system of assembling and serving food, but he's blind to the importance of the high-quality ingredients they see as one of their main draws.

Though nominally in charge, the brothers quickly lose their power as Kroc builds a business empire of his own around the McDonald's brand, ignoring Mac and Dick's orders whenever he finds them inconvenient. When Kroc proposes that McDonald's can save money by making milkshakes with water and a powdered mix instead of ice cream and milk, the brothers are horrified. Dick barks at Kroc, “We are not interested in a milkshake that contains no milk!” At which point Kroc sends the mix to every McDonald's franchise. Read the rest in Slant Magazine

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